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.
We saw with Grenfell what happens when risk is sat on, tonight we see the cost of acting. This is where Local Authorities sit. All the duties, rights, responsibilities that noone gives a fuck about, are held here. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t. Yes, their response will always be shaped by what political winds, and that is shaped by media and the electorate, and what they do will always be structured by legislation and institutions 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.
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. 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.
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, demanding scalps and answers that are firmly rooted 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. 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, and then remember it longer than the news cycle so when you are demanding the political priorities that mean you never have to think about housing, you remember that what you are demanding has consequences. If you really want to address the inequality at the root of all this, you could do that.(I bet you dont)