First of all, am nowhere near a housing expert and all musings that follow should bear that in mind. If you do wish to read the musings of someone who knows stuff, I recommend this post by @nearlylegal.
This is a more general rant, because Camden are about to temporarily rehouse 4000 people. Anyone who knows even the slightest bit about social housing, the state of local authorities with regard to housing responsibilities, knows that this is an extraordinarily huge task. I have already seen conspiracy theories, and we have a week of fairly irresponsible media behaviour after the events at Grenfell Tower(which am still not able to address in more than an oblique way. I am sure I will in future, but it is too much and we are only beginnig to understand the scale of it).
We saw with Grenfell what happens when risk is sat on, tonight we see the cost of acting. This is where Local Authorities sit. Where harm is done by intervention, and harm is done by not and all crisis are linked to political and legal responsibility. Where intervention is shaped by politics and money and delusions about how we prioritise these things, as well as by laws that protect us from that. All the duties, rights, responsibilities that noone gives a fuck about, are held in Local Authorities. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t. Yes, their response will always be shaped by what political responsibility should be, and that is shaped by media and the electorate, as well as legislation and those who enact it.
Local Authorities are crushed by public consent and demand, and kept invisible by left and right and still they maintain and uphold the balance of these responsibilities, walking the tightrope that means damned if they do and damned if they dont. This weekend Camden have to rehouse 4000 people with the services the public want them to have.
They do this while their institutions are hollowed out, the resources they have to do this with are contracted out, sold off, liquidated, while they maintain these responsbilities. Managerialism reshaping what they do. Responsibilities which cannot be abdicated. These are institutions run on a cover your arse reflex because they are the site of political responsibility for all these tensions that everyone wishes we didnt have, until crisis makes us demand to know why we didn’t do this. This is the grey light in which housing, child protection, mental health and a million other services that our policy makers are no longer taught the existence of, never mind value of, operates. Its why these systems evolve through crisis.
Grenfell is a crisis sat on top of system failure, and like all crisis of this nature we will find that erosion of institutions, cumulative flaws, and institutional indifference repeated at all levels of decision making made the space for tragedy. THis is not new. Nor is it new that this crisis will expose other crisis, as well as educating us in our how these systems are linked. The nature of these crisis is that we will be brought face to face with the fact that this was done by consent over a long period. And consent is something we all want to hide from and so we run to the Labour left for absolution and to hide the consensus on this.
Tomorrow that will be played out by a media culture who have no knowkedge of these institutions, demanding scalps rather than answers and giving no fucks that some poor bastard at Camden Council had to make a decision to relocate 4000 people and now has to carry that out. Get them temporary accomodation, make sure it is all on a legal basis, get them in there, get those buildings sorted, and get them back into their homes. They will be doing this with institutions and resources eroded and kicked to death, that never evolved to do what we needed them to do in the first place. Those journalists will demand scalps and answers that could much more easily be found in the political narratives they sell. The left will be demanding Tory scalps, so we dont notice trade union functioning has been impeded by elite social closure, and posh kids get to use the trade unuons that should represent these workers. Or that that is the only voice outside these structures and political oversight these workers have. Abusing and intimidating to erase discussion of consensus. There will be conspiracy theories where ballsups that are guaranteed when eroded services go beyond their logistic capacity, in times of stress, are attributed to malign intent. People who rightly fear being cleansed from a city where the poor are erased, in times of duress are vulnerable. Every half witted journalist will be looking for a stick to beat Camden with. All in desperate avoidance of the one thing they could do to help this situation and every other like it.
Grow the fuck up and behave. Use these crisis to learn how these systems fit together, if you are honest you know its foe the first time. Then remember it longer than the news cycle lasts, so when you are demanding the political priorities that mean you never have to think about housing, you know what you are demanding has material consequences. If you really want to address the inequality at the root of all this, you could do that.(I bet you dont)