Today I came across this article on a local newspaper website, and was immediately struck at how inflammatory language is used to present a case in the worst possible light.
The headline says “Residents of an award-winning West End block of flats are trying to scupper a proposal to turn one of the apartments into student accommodation.”
Student accommodation – what horrors does that only bring to the mind of a peaceful resident of an award winning block of Dundee flats? Hundreds of nineteen year olds, tanked up on booze, running riot all night, setting off fire alarms, leaving take away boxes in the hallway and partying into the early hours to loud music, perhaps?
Yet closer reading of the article reveals a totally different reality. The proposal is for a single flat to house “up to 3 people”, who would either be student nurses or trainee doctors. Hardly hell-raisers, and much more likely to be studying hard into the early hours, than turning up the volume.
The owner has reassured residents that they have no intention of turning the block into a student block, and that it is not to his advantage to lower the value of the property either.
What is evident is a certain type of knee-jerk response to shared living – “it isn’t like how we live, therefore we don’t like it”. Residents are worried that the unique nature of their design award winning property would be somehow altered by allowing three unrelated people to live there. Comments on the piece seem to infer that in order to be considered ‘decent’ you must be a single resident or a family, and preferably not renting either.
Students, young professionals, low-earners, recent divorcees and anyone else who lives in flatshares may very well be asking the question: “So, where exactly are we supposed to live?” Councils up and down the country are using their powers to limit the number of HMOs (houses in multiple occupation – normally shared between 3 or more unrelated people). Neighbourhoods deemed to have “too many” houseshares are off-limits, as are areas that don’t have any, just in case a single flatshare should lower the tone, or house prices. Would they prefer that renty-somethings move to the depths of the countryside, or live on ships moored just off the coast, so as not to offend home-owning incumbents with their presence?
Priced out of home-ownership, and rapidly hitting the rental affordability ceiling, many people have no option but to live in shared accommodation. Councils have a duty of care to house the homeless – do they not also have a duty to make a balanced case for housing for everyone? Or will they continue to allow the haves to ride roughshod over the have-nots, depriving many of the last affordable housing options? Have they not noticed there’s a housing crisis going on? Or are they only concerned about issues that concern the people most likely to vote them back into power? Answers on a postcard please.