Thursday, 23 June 2011

'These are Lovely Houses'

The bedroom at No.21, with boards exposed and walls painted
SAVE visited No.21 today and met Chris, one of our two house guardians. He and his partner, Leah, have already started to transform the place  - stripping wallpaper, painting rooms and varnishing some of the excellent wooden floors. Chris, soft-spoken and thoughtul, was clearly enjoying the project. 'These are lovely houses' he told me.

Seeing what Camelot and the house guardians had achieved in just 3 weeks, the council's deliberate neglect of the hundreds of other tinned-up houses in the street appears all the more shameful. With a modest cash injection - a fraction of the cost of demolition - every one of these properties could be returned to a habitable condition. But the council is not interested in the houses, just the land, even though its developer partner is no longer interested in building new houses. The power, and money, now rests with the Housing Association Plus Dane. Plus Dane is a a Registered Social Landlord (RSL) which owns many of the houses in the Welsh Streets area and stands to benefit from rebuilding. Although it receives millions of pounds of public subsidy from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) it is, like all RSLs completely unaccountable. Since 2005 it has openly colluded with the council in emptying and boarding up properties, instigating blight and contravening its own code of conduct as a registered social landlord - in order to prepare the area for clearance.
Home improvements: within a few weeks our house guardians have carried out more renovation work in the Madryn Street than the council has managed in 5 years, despite millions of pounds of HMR subsidy.

A glimpse through the grilles over the windows of adjacent properties is enough to see the potential of these buildings - stained glass in rear doorways, spacious rooms with simple but well detailed plasterwork and joinery. Thousands of similar houses across Liverpool have already been destroyed under Pathfinder schemes. In many cases their materials are 'harvested' by builders to supply reclamation yards in the south, with some of it used, no doubt, to furnish terraced houses of a similar size in Fulham or Battersea which now sell for millions of pounds.

A shameful waste: houses in Madryn Street boarded up and left to rot in the midst of a housing crisis

The Camelot team in front of No.21

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