Editors note: It appears that the same corporate motivations building expensive student housing and condos for vacationers in Flagstaff is infecting the world. ACORN is building a campaign in Ireland to combat unbridled development.
New Orleans One thing that intrigued me in both England and Ireland over the last two weeks was the amount of construction in every city I visited. These were not little small-time projects, but giant cranes building skyscrapers in most of the cities.
Manchester was out of control. On the tram in Manchester going to the office, I looked out and could see seven or eight cranes in the distance with existing towers already in place way outside of the city center. I asked the organizers what’s up, and they pointed behind me to the other side of the tram car, and there were another three or four right there as well. Going into Leeds train station I counted eight cranes on the horizon of this smaller city. Walking along my accustomed route to Bristol’s Temple Mead station in the last half kilometer, I was walking between multistory buildings going up with new construction on both sides of the street. Sheffield almost the same thing. Then again in Dublin, the members said there were building all over the city center.
I kept asking, “What’s happening?” Are there new jobs or corporate relocations driving this? The answers varied, but no one really knew. In some places, Dublin and Sheffield particularly the fingers pointed towards construction of student housing where developers build privately for universities and cop an extra 25% on the rents to the desperate students. In other cities, as we scratched our heads, there were no clear answers. Land was cheaper, we speculated in the north, but that doesn’t factor enough for developers to risk millions and millions. Most of the construction was high-end rentals or condos it seemed. The only real answer seemed to be that either there already is a mass exodus from the exorbitant cost of housing in London that is driving people elsewhere to have an opportunity to ever buy or even to rent something or that developers realize that London has become so crazy that the hordes are bound to be coming. Either this is the biggest favor that London has inadvertently done some of the other cities or there is a huge bubble in high-end and quasi-commercial buildings.
One thing is clear from everyone. Almost none of this is about building social housing or affordable housing so that existing residents in these cities can find decent housing. In Dublin for example, organizers were telling me that many people are decamping from there to Glasgow because the cost of housing is cheaper there.
None of this seems sustainable or sound policy about how to grow and who to serve in growing, which seems to make a crash unavoidable.
Wade Rathke is founder and chief organizer of ACORN and ACORN International. You can find Wade’s recent past posts here Chief Organizer Reports. And you can link to his website here Chief Organizer ACORN/ACORN International