Published: 26/06/2017 Last Updated: 27/06/2017
I have been putting off writing this newsletter because I was waiting for the election to pass, to let a period of calm settle, and from that period of calm, be able to draw some conclusions from its result to then begin to assess the future. Clearly, sadly and also, in light of other events, tragically, that period of calm has not come.
Yet again, the pollsters were wrong in understanding what the electorate really wants and so we face many more months of negotiation, indecision and a lack of forward momentum. Folding on top of that the negotiations beginning with the EU and things do look depressingly muddled. I think if we can draw one positive, possibly, for London, it may be that the hard Brexit Theresa May wanted looks a lot less likely.
I think, however, at this point it is best not to debate a situation that has so many different potential outcomes. I would, instead, like to turn to the tragic events surrounding the fire at Grenfell Tower last week. This situation can be observed through many different prisms but one for us (and you, no doubt) is as the providers of accommodation to tenants. There are the obvious points of the provision of safe, habitable properties and ensuring health and safety is properly assessed by you and us as your agents (and the freeholders who may be responsible for the fabric of the entire building). There is, however, the much broader, fundamental point illustrated here of the split between the landlord and the tenant.
It does feel as though we are living through a very febrile period where the landlord or asset owner (and that asset may come in many different guises) is being pitted against the asset user. The degree and extent of this conflict is very difficult to measure and is being hyped up and played down by either ends of the political spectrum but it certainly exists and is becoming an increasingly palpable force.
The social contract that was forged out of the collective experiences of the population of this nation in the Second World War led to the creation of institutions like the NHS, state schooling, council housing and also the nationalisation of the various utilities. Thirty years later the populace decided that that contract was no longer required and voted for the deconstruction of the state and a programme of privatisation under the Thatcher government. It seems, some 25 or more years further on from there, that there is a growing swell of belief, albeit still a minority one, that the notion of a more collective attitude to society is the direction in which we should be travelling. I think we should all be sensitive to this because I think in so doing, and then being part of the solution, we can avoid more seismic-level shocks over which we have little control and much to lose. I think an interesting example of this in relation to the Grenfell Tower tragedy was the initial demand by Jeremy Corbyn to expropriate the property of the rich in Kensington and Chelsea to house the homeless of Grenfell - a potential solution that would seem extreme to most. However, a significantly diluted version of this demand was found when the Berkeley Group sold its stock of affordable housing in a local luxury development to the council at cost to house Grenfell Tower residents. I think, if the landlords and tenants, in whatever guise they may be, that make up the population of this country are going to avoid significant conflict, finding diluted versions of radical solutions that still capture the essence of a collective spirit are going to have to become something we see considerably more often.