Roma Godamska Miles 

The fairness of the current housing development mechanism is being questioned by an ever growing majority of the public in turn becoming a mainstream concern. Understood to be the outcome of decades of seemingly disproportionate exchanges between public / private with little stipulation in creating benefits for the public good. 

The State we’re in:

Creeping normality “refers to slow trends concealed within noisy fluctuations”.1 Something deteriorating only slowly, it’s difficult to recognise that each successive year is on the average slightly worse than the year before, so one’s baseline standard for what constitutes ‘normalcy’ shifts gradually and imperceptibly. It takes a long sequence of such slight year-to-year changes before people realise, with a jolt, that conditions used to be much better several decades ago, and that what is accepted as normalcy has crept downwards.2

This jolt, has been felt by many through the recent housing bill announced this month with David Cameron announcing his proposal to demolish “100 of the worst sink estates” in a move to “really get to grips with the deep social problems”.3

The post-war estates in question were the legacy of society’s new ideology. The experience of traumatic conflict fresh in peoples memory, for the first time inspired a collective social responsibility, which in turn gave rise to the welfare state. The radical new energy of the state’s devotion to housing for the people, saw the arrival of a new architecture as bold as its ambition.

However, the welfare state represents a restraint to libertarians who wish to ride uninhibited with the force of the market behind them. So time changed the celebrated estates into something dehumanising. Formally an ambition of egalitarianism, they are now seen accused of being ghettos which hinder social mobility. A paradigm shift enforced through language such as ‘sink estates’. 5

The Governments proposals will essentially be eradicating the states responsibility to house those even in the greatest need. The type of property that will be built in the place of the estates will not be council homes, but rather misleadingly named ‘affordable’ homes which is defined as 80% of market value. Shifting the existing estate housing stock from stable and secure state provision to one that adheres to market forces. The normality of London as a territory under sovereign rule of capital is ever creeping on. This bill embodies the deepest and final blow to the ideology of the welfare state.

Cameron’s proposed plans go further and advocate ‘affordable homes to buy’ for first time buyers with state subsidisation, but at the price of £450,000 for a one bed in London, acquiring a mortgage with the state assistance of 20% subsidy would require an income of £90,000 (higher than that of an MP). This has broken the meaning of affordable, and sees state funds subsidise high-earner ownership. The subsided homes will be allowed to be sold off at market value after just 5 years. Commodification of state investment to provide private individual gain. None of the proposals offer anything of benefit to those living in existing estates, which lead to accusations that the move is taking from the poor to give to the rich. Recent figures show that since 2010, the year Cameron in government entered government, homelessness has increased by 55% and the beginning of a mass urban migration of society’s poorest out of London was witnessed. All evidence so far suggests that in reality only a few benefit from the regeneration which offers only the dream of social mobility. We should be cautious of the seductive developer renders offering a polite, warmed and hazy new world.

This policy of commodification is in tune with Laissez faire’s economic ideology6 but only implementable as a creeping normality. The process began in the 1980s with the foundation of neoliberalism, and has taken over three decades to erode the state provision towards housing. Maybe in light of the bill today we are in sight of its end. If the housing bill is passed it will inevitably lead to the estates deletion. The ambitions and ideals of their conception will be remembered as an anomaly, and the sites forever more the grave of the utopian dream.


1.    New Bablon Sketch, Constant Nieuwenhuis, 1959. 2.    Mayday Rooms, Author.
3.    New Homes Camberwell, Author.
4.     ‘I had a dream’ Ayelsbury Estate Neon Light Photograph, Aruthor.
5.    Cakes, The Radical Housing Network, 2015.


1.     Diamond, Jared. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (Penguin Group, New York, 2005) p. 425
2.    Ibid
3.     The Andrew Marr Show, BBC One, 10 January 2016
4.     The etymology of sink comes from a sewage system component, where the waste sinks to the bottom, whilst abandonment embodies the phrase ‘sink or swim’.
5.     Wilson, Wendy. Rough sleeping (England), (House of Commons Library, London, 7 January 2016) p. 25
6.     Laissez-faire theorists believe that housing is a commodity with no intrinsic merit: a dwelling’s value is its exchange price as determined by the intervention between supply and demand. It is believed state intervention in the housing market has caused more problems than it has solved and that only competition can supply the incentives necessary for efficiency. ‘The invisible hand’ is a metaphor to describe unintended social benefits resulting from individual actions and has come to capture a notion that individuals’ efforts to pursue their own interest may frequently benefit society more than if their actions were directly intending to benefit society. This informs the belief to not stimulate housing production by direct state provision or state subsidies.