Saturday 23 March 2019

Home truths: Welcome to a new dystopia for housing

An apartment block - much like the one described in our fictional proposed dystopian box set plot
An apartment block - much like the one described in our fictional proposed dystopian box set plot
Mark Keenan

Mark Keenan

DYSTOPIAS are all the go at the moment. In cinema, on Netflix, Sky Atlantic and for box sets. We've had Blade Runner 2040, Westworld, Walking Dead and now we're all geared up for a second dollop of The Handmaid's Tale.

But for just a second imagine with me yet one more disjointed dystopian world. It's sort of Orwellian. In it, rules don't apply to the wealthy at all. The privileged set, called the Privs, can do pretty much what they want. In this world those anointed are rewarded for their triumphs but also for their failure and ineptitude. So if banks, or company directors or heads of state bodies or developers are errant or fraudulent or in breach of the law, it is customary not only that they never lose their jobs (nor go to jail if the offences are criminal), but are instead given a token talking to before being repatriated by the other Privs to become wealthy/successful again. The talking to bit is very important, however. Apologies too.

In this oddball existence there's another much larger group called the Plebs who are instead responsible for paying for the crimes and mistakes of the Privs. Whenever a politician or business is involved with graft, a huge public inquisition show is arranged to run for many years. It costs millions (to be paid by the Plebs to Priv lawyers). And, at the end of it, no one loses their jobs or goes to jail.

The state pretends it has a health service for Plebs even though quite often its inept negligence causes deaths. But the Privs stick together and those responsible for errors are given even bigger jobs. In this world, the Privs in power also pretend to enable housing, but we'll come back to this in a minute.

Our hero in this fictional tale is a Pleb named John. In our story, John works hard, saves money and along with his wife Mary, they buy an apartment. In doing so they get a mortgage. As is typical in this world, their bank steals from them by depriving them of initially attractive and agreed terms, which in essence takes thousands from their pockets over the term of the loan.

Every month in this world a few thousand more people like John and Mary are revealed to be subject to this type of stealing. On top of this John and Mary are also unfortunate to be among the designated Plebs who must pay higher taxes for 30 years to repay the cost of crazy bank Privs who managed to bankrupt their banks a while back through ineptitude on a massive scale. Happily these bankers all got well-paid jobs afterwards in credit control roles, ensuring that pesky Plebs pay up what they owe.

In this world, banks are not robbed but instead do the robbing. And if they are stupid enough to get caught stealing money from the Pleb customers, they are forced to apologise. Maybe. And sometimes if Government asks them nicely (many times over), they might just have to give the money back.

Just the other day John and Mary looked in their other bank account (holding their wages and savings) and all their money was gone! The bank told Pleb customers whose money disappeared not to worry. It probably fell down the back of the sofa or something. The bank issued a general "sorry" notice, as is customary, so no explanation required.

John and Mary finally move into their apartment (we'll call the block something like Beacon Hall or Priory South Quarter) and now they have a baby. But it emerges that the developer who built the apartments has broken the law and did not fire proof the homes properly.

The developer Priv is now gone however. After saying sorry he lives a Priv life in a flash luxury home in another country's capital. Recently he went on a charity cycle around France. But this is not his affair. The breach in fire laws means John and Mary and their children could die if their building went on fire (and it actually has done!).Even in this dystopia, this will not stand. The Privs are vexed about it. The system now demands that John and his wife Mary be punished right away. They must now immediately shell out thousands from their casually disappearing savings in order to have the apartment fixed up to adhere to the safety levels demanded in the first place. John and Mary don't have the money. So it's time for the system to crack down on them.

The fire brigade issues the family with legal notices for repairs or they must leave the complex. Officials take John and Mary aside and stress to them that there'll be no more of this nonsense. John and Mary need to pay more Priv-owned building firms to come in and make even more money. In fact the cost of the work has just doubled. They will also have to leave and live elsewhere while the job goes on. Building schedules are also nonsense in our dystopian world. I like that bit.

John and Mary now fear they are about to join the 10,000 homeless plebs because now they also need to rent another property.

In this particular dystopia there are also too few homes available to rent. The Privs in Government have discouraged housing construction for 10 years in order to increase the values of thousands of homes on the banks books which are subject to bad loans. The Government owns the bad banks that the Plebs were made to pay for saving. Now it needs to get the value of those banks up in order to sell them on at a decent price so the bank Privs can make more money. As a result Pleb house prices and rental costs have doubled.

John and Mary still can't pay so now they are threatened with public naming and shaming in Stubbs Gazette and the newspapers. Their mortgage could be sold to a Priv-owned vulture fund by the Priv mortgage bank that has been stealing from them. So they arrive home to find that the swipe pass they use to get into their building has been deactivated. The End. But unlike Walking Dead, this yarn is just a bit too far fetched to make a believable dystopian box set. Isn't it?

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