Thursday, 6 April 2017

‘Homes for local people' > The mysterious appearance of Latin graffiti on a new housing development is a wake-up call that all is not right in Cambridge

This story has hit the national news headlines:

'Only in Cambridge': Homes daubed with Latin graffiti

4 April 2017

A development of luxury homes in Cambridge has been daubed with graffiti - written in Latin, of course.

The houses stand on the site of the former Penny Ferry pub
'Only in Cambridge': Homes daubed with Latin graffiti - BBC News

This is what it looked like before:

Closed Cambridge Pubs:The Penny Ferry | Another closed pub i… | Flickr
Developer wins appeal to develop the former Penny Ferry pub - News - Cambs Times

This is the coverage from Cambridge:

Latin graffiti in Cambridge is a wake-up call that all is not right here - comment

The unorthodox vandalism across the new homes in Water Street got everyone talking yesterday

5 APR 2017

George Weyman, chairman of The Cambridge Commons, thinks the Latin graffiti on new homes in Fen Road speaks of a growing inequality in the city

Graffiti sprawled across fives homes at a new Cambridge development gave residents a shock yesterday morning (April 4).

But George Weyman, chairman of The Cambridge Commons, a local group campaigning on inequality, feels the vandalism on new homes on Fen Road symbolises a deep-rooted sentiment held by many

The mysterious appearance of Latin graffiti on a new housing development on Fen Road is a wake-up call that all is not right in Cambridge.

‘Homes for local people,’ was the tenor of the message daubed on new houses worth £1.25m each – a message that will resonate for many.

We could quite easily ignore this unexpected protest as a random case of criminal damage.

But we can’t and we shouldn’t.

Average prices have risen by nearly 50 per cent since 2010, topping £360,000 - higher than anywhere in the country with the exception of London or St Albans.

The success of the city in attracting business and research investment is of course something we should celebrate. But our housing policy is more than ever not fit for purpose.

Dr Charles Weiss, from Cambridge University's Faculty of Classics translated the slogan as 'a place for homes equals places for people'

How very Cambridge! Latin graffiti daubed on controversial housing development

Many of the vital workers we need in the city – from teachers to nurses – cannot afford to buy a house here and often struggle to find suitable accommodation for rent either.

How many children are taught by teachers who don’t live in their community?

Our lax rules around renting, which allow landlords great freedom to raise rents or kick tenants out, make life incredibly insecure and unsettling for anyone trying to settle down.

Meanwhile property owners accumulate huge value from doing literally nothing.

It looks eye-watering on paper to see that a student’s debt of four years at one of the Cambridge universities is £36,000.

But that pales compared to the hike in value of three bed houses on my street. They went up four or five times as much in the same period.

Graffiti on new signs in Fen Road, Cambridge

What’s the lesson of this? Stop learning, stop trying to better yourself, stop trying to be creative. Just get hold of some land and sit on it?

The best of Cambridge's quirky graffiti

It seems incredible to me that we cannot find a proportionate way to tax unearned wealth like this. After all, the same argument is levelled at people on benefits: that it’s not fair that they earn more than hard working people.

The debate often focuses on the mix and number of houses we build. But we all too rarely talk about the deeper question of our relationship to land.

What if we had an intelligent tax on land value? Land taxes could be used to fund equitable housing policies, public services, and innovation and entrepreneurship zones.

All the things we need to prosper, live well together, and lead creative lives.

Looked at with a wider lens, our dysfunctional housing market stands at the root of the glaring inequality that besets Cambridge.

Ecce! What residents have to say about the Latin graffiti on Cambridge houses

The city has become so unequal it now tops the chart for the most unequal city in the UK (Centre for Cities, 2017).

And this has consequences for many aspects of our lives, from our health and levels of stress, to the extent to which we trust each other.

Cambridge East (CB5) is 12th in the UK postcodes with the highest burglary rates.

The city has extraordinary levels of health inequality. Life expectancy in Kings Hedges is 11 years shorter than in Newnham. That’s as long as the entire history of YouTube.

Meanwhile, the numbers who are suffering severe financial stress appear to be growing.

One in eight households in Cambridge now cannot afford to heat their homes. Food bank use doubled year on year between 2013 and 2015.

Cambridge developer reviewing security after Latin graffiti scrawled in Water Street

And then there’s education. Two schools just a short walk away live at extreme poles of intake. At Milton Road primary school for example, 1 in 20 children are considered ‘disadvantaged’. Down the road at The Grove, the rate is reportedly well above the national average of 13 per cent, closer to 1 in 5.

If not checked, inequalities like these will eat into our civic well-being. We will lead balkanised lives, trapped behind barriers of wealth and privilege – barriers we will pass on to our children and entrench deeper with each generation.

We need to recognise that we share a city for a reason: to live together.

To live together well, the housing market needs reform. Fundamental reform.

Thankfully there is a window of opportunity. A new mayor for the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough region, who we will elect on 4 May, will have a £70m budget for affordable housing.

But we need much more than that.

A factory that makes homes among ideas to improve life in Cambridgeshire

For a city with some of the most educated, creative people on the planet, it seems surprising if we cannot come up with some novel, compelling ideas for reform.

The Cambridge Commons thinks a reform is needed in attitudes

We can.

That’s why The Cambridge Commons is organising a hustings with the mayoral candidates on April 25, ten days ahead of the election.

More fundamentally, we need a city-wide conversation for a new civic vision.

What does it mean to live in Cambridge, and to live well?

That’s a conversation that must not wait.

The Cambridge Commons hustings on inequality will be held on April 25 at Friends Meeting House, 12 Jesus Lane, from 6.30-8pm.

See https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-cambridge-commons-mayoral-election-hustings-on-inequality-25th-april-tickets-33318495517

Latin graffiti in Cambridge is a wake-up call that all is not right here - comment - Cambridge News

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