How much is too much?

Written By: - Date published: 9:48 am, November 2nd, 2014 - 43 comments
Categories: class war - Tags:

This is a question that sprung to mind while I was reading a recent Guardian article about English landlords Fergus and Judith Wilson.  They are the owners of nearly 1,000 homes in the Kent area in the United Kingdom.  The value of the landholding must be phenomenal although their actual worth will depend on how heavily their portfolio is leveraged.  But you have to wonder at their need to continuously amass more and more houses.

It is not as if they are decent human beings  They attracted some notoriety in January this year when they sent 200 eviction notices to tenants reliant on a benefit and instructed letting agencies that they would no longer accept tenants who would need a housing benefit.  They said at the time they would give preference to East European immigrants to solo mums.

They have now changed their tune.  As reported in the latest Guardian article:

But, in a bizarre twist, the Wilsons have begun evicting many of their eastern European tenants – because they are having too many children. “I have taken the decision to evict all families with more than two children and also three-generation households,” said Fergus Wilson in a statement sent to the Guardian.

“Most of our houses in Ashford go to childless couples. However, after a couple of months there are four, five, six children and I have to evict the family. The tenancy has been taken by deception. We have had a number of eastern European families slip in under the radar with four, five and six children. We have had no British tenants with three or more children for some weeks. They have been evicted as I took the decision to no longer take housing benefit cases. All those British tenants with three or more children have long gone.”

We asked Wilson how many families he has evicted on this basis. He said: “Eight to date, and at least four more to go.” He added that visiting grannies are also a problem. “Three-generation houses seem to be very popular with east European immigrants. When they move in the children, they move in grandma.”

Our society is in a bad way when a family’s expectation of secure housing is dependent on the whim of such uncaring bigots like the Wilsons.

Their particular form of humanity should be contrasted to that of former left wing Uruguayan President José Mujica.  He stood down recently as president although he has been elected to the Uruguayan Senate.  He was immensely popular because he was such a decent human being and was described as “the world’s ‘humblest’ president”.  He lived an austere lifestyle and used to donate most of his $12,000 monthly salary to charity.  He lived in a a farmhouse, flew economy class and drove an old Volkswagen Beetle.

We live in an interesting world where the Wilsons and José Mujica share the same basic genetic structure but can have such different levels of humanity.  Hopefully José Mujica and his ilk can determine the future direction that humanity takes.

43 comments on “How much is too much?”

  1. “Behind the Wilsons’ recent actions lies another motive; preparing their portfolio of homes for a trade sale. In July, they said they planned to withdraw from the property business, selling their entire portfolio of nearly 1,000 homes in the Ashford and Maidstone area in a deal likely to net them at least £100m. “I have had three firm offers for our property portfolio, and while I am considering these I have to manage the portfolio on a day-to-day basis.” The Wilson are understood to have been in negotiation with investors from Dubai and the far east.”

    These people are beyond awful.

    • JanM 1.1

      As Dorothy Parker said “You can tell what the Good Lord thinks of money by the people he gives it to” 🙂

      • Minarch 1.1.1

        “In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”

        Mark 10:25

        Im not a religious person, but the ol’ book can still get it sooooo right sometimes !

      • sir pat 1.1.2

        now that is an elegant reply!!!

    • Paul 1.2

      The moral vacuum of neoliberalism writ large.

    • RedLogix 1.3

      As a landlord (and renter) myself – these people are plain awful. Embarrassing.

      As I mentioned yesterday there are three main groups of people – owners, private sector renters and social sector renters. And I firmly believe there is a legitimate place for all three.

      If for no other reason than the entirely selfish one – people who should be in social housing generally don’t do well in private sector rentals. They generally fall behind in the rent and become a problem.

      Secondly I firmly believe that social housing should set a quality benchmark below which no private sector landlord could afford to fall. I personally loath landlords who rent out cold, damp run-down shit-holes that are nothing but a health hazard. A properly functioning property market would see such landlords put out of business promptly, via a combination of regulation and tenants always having a better choice.

      I would be very happy to see much better legislation around security of tenure for both tenants and landlords. Far too many horror stories from both sides of the transaction – and this is a reflection of the immature and undeveloped state of regulation in this market. Long overdue take a long hard look at best practice from other countries.

      And finally – yes I would love to see more housing associations in this country. We desperately need a lot more innovation around group housing, village settings, etc. Oddly enough it’s the retirement industry that is setting some great examples. There a plenty of good ideas out there – but our market-only model is very weak at delivering them.

      Given all the positive opportunity for reform in this sector – its a fucking disgrace this governments sole idea is to sell state houses. It’s not even faintly original – it’s just a slight re-packaging of what they did in the 90’s,

      • Draco T Bastard 1.3.1

        A properly functioning property market would see such landlords put out of business promptly, via a combination of regulation and tenants always having a better choice.

        That would require the government to ensure that there was a 1 to 2 % over supply of housing – and the government doesn’t need to, and shouldn’t, make a profit. And that means that private landlords could never survive.

        There a plenty of good ideas out there – but our market-only model is very weak at delivering them.

        Our market only model is designed to enrich a few – not provide what society actually needs. It does the former really well.

        • RedLogix

          And that means that private landlords could never survive.

          They would potter along quite happily providing a service over and above what the state is capable of doing. Of our 8 units, 6 are of a standard well above your average HNZ unit.

          In three of them we allow tenants to have well-behaved dogs. We allow one couple to run a small dog rescue operation and another have a large garden, a cattery and ducks. These people have secure tenancy and as long as they pay the rent reliably and look after the place, they’re unlikely to see a rent rise.

          There are a significant number of of private sector rentals purpose-built from new, and others are in locations or of a size and standard that provide a choice well past what social housing is about.

          I see the state as providing a decent floor to the market – not taking it over.

          • Draco T Bastard

            They would potter along quite happily providing a service over and above what the state is capable of doing.

            The state is quite capable of providing housing that’s equal to or better than the present average of the private sector – and doing so cheaper.

            In three of them we allow tenants to have well-behaved dogs.

            Nothing to prevent the state sector doing the same.

            There are a significant number of of private sector rentals purpose-built from new, and others are in locations or of a size and standard that provide a choice well past what social housing is about.

            Which is a load of ideological bollocks. Social housing is about providing good housing not the cheap, almost falling down slums that the private housing sector, on average, provides at inflated prices.

            • Colonial Rawshark

              3/4 of residential property developments in Singapore are either state owned or state provided. (Singapore Housing Development Board).

              Including million dollar apartments.

              I still think private landlords (ie property owners who are dedicated to making an income from renting quality accommodation as opposed to speculating on property asset prices) should have a significant role to play though.

  2. hoom 2

    Reasons why relying on non-state parties to provide ‘social housing’ is a fucking stupid idea 1#

    • Bill 2.1

      Housing collectives/cooperatives are non-state and often immensely successful.

      Under the correctly chosen legislation, and with thoughtful internal structuring, tenants are essentially owners for the time of their tenure, and their tenure is secure, affordable and empowering, given that they have an owners hat to don with regards management of the property alongside their fellow tenant/owners.

      • hoom 2.1.1

        Fair point. Accepted.

        • hoom

          I guess what I really meant is ‘relying on the hand of unregulated market forces’ is a fucking stupid idea.

      • ghostwhowalksnz 2.1.2

        Like where ?
        Fine words dont make a roof over your head

        • Bill

          Like where? Google is your friend ‘ghost’.

          Not saying this is the best of the bunch, but they’re certainly doing something right.

          and for a wider perspective, and perhaps access to different legal structures/ideas

          • ghostwhowalksnz

            30 to 40 empty houses in the UK turned into livable accommodation, its only a demonstration project.

            A few examples from google wasnt what I was thinking would make a difference , like here. Could be worth a try when we need inner city urban regeneration but fortunately that isnt OUR problem.

            • Bill

              What’s your problem? I provided a link to one co-op that’s been going since 1985 (hardly a ‘demonstration project’) and another that provides a list of co-ops. You didn’t actually take the time to explore the link, did you?

              Anyway. Given that the usable legislation in NZ mirrors that of the UK, using UK links makes sense. Also, although there have been co-ops in NZ (at least two in Christchurch that I know of), there is a far more extensive network in the UK and far more info available.

              Of course, you could search through links for Italy, Spain, USA, Canada, France and so on, but then the legislative framework will likely be different.

              Meanwhile, what’s so different about the problem of homelessness and high rents in NZ in comparison to the UK?

              • Colonial Rawshark

                GWWNZ is after a centrally directed Wellington administered system, I suspect. God forbid people in communities being facilitated to organise and help themselves.

                • Bill

                  Well yes, the idea is probably to institute some centrally controlled and massively profitable (for some) system of administration that essentially favours a corporate/acquisitive mindset.

                  But the legislation already exists in NZ that allows for the formation of both housing collectives and housing cooperatives.

                  In other words, there may well be no reason as to why the whole shebang can’t be subverted. Just, y’know, sayin’.

              • RedLogix

                The Australian rental industry is significantly more mature than NZ’s.

                Professional property managers are far more common and the legislation is a good deal more comprehensive.

                Also :

                • Murray Rawshark

                  And tenants get horribly ripped off. You have to take fixed term tenancies and when you need to leave a month early because you’ve got cancer and can’t get up the stairs, it costs you thousands. In Queensland there was a tenants’ agency funded by interest on bond money, but the Bjelke-Newman government got rid of it. There’s also a huge amount of bureaucracy involved with moving into a place. We should not copy this system.

  3. Bill 3

    Squatters’ rights. Problem solved.

    Oh yeah, and limit allowable rent charged by pinning it to a property’s government evaluation.

    • Paul 4.1

      Cheap rents
      Renter-friendly regulations
      Tax treatment

      • miravox 4.1.1

        “The Germans can teach us a lot about housing policy”

        As can Vienna and Singapore

        Christoph Reinprecht summarizes the Austrian approach to social housing as follows: “There is a general political consensus that society should be responsible for housing supply, and that housing is a basic human need that should not be subject to free market mechanisms; rather, society should ensure that a sufficient number of dwellings are available.”…

        Vienna’s public housing program modulates the private housing market. Because so much of the city’s total housing stock is city-owned or subsidized, private landlords compete with social housing for the same tenants, and cannot afford to inflate rents. At the same time, the fact that majority of the population lives in municipal or subsidized housing means that the social stigma attached to public housing in the United States does not apply.

        The fear is of course, is that citizens will forget what it is they have and not guard against those who wish to move toward a more ideological and privatised model of housing.

  4. coaster 5

    Some people just arnt nice, it makes perfect sense business wise to do what they do, but not moral sense.

  5. Draco T Bastard 6

    How much is too much?

    IMO, As far as income goes too much is when you have more than enough to live well so about $100k per year for an individual.

    Nobody should be owning land, houses or anything else that a society needs to provide for it’s people. So, power generation assets are out and so is telecommunications, roads, rail, shipping, and farms.

    • ankerawshark 6.1

      Draco T B


    • chris73 6.2

      Yeah thats already been tried and it didn’t work

      • Colonial Rawshark 6.2.1

        Huh? I suppose it didn’t work for those with oligarchic tendencies. But look at John Key. Success from a state owned house. And you have the stupidity and audacity to say “it didn’t work.”

        Well, the current economic set up doesn’t work for the bottom 50% of society. But why worry about small details like that when the top 0.1% are living it up large?

      • Draco T Bastard 6.2.2

        Really, where has such a system been tried? and, a more profound question that is probably above you’re ability to comprehend, What caused it’s downfall?

        BTW, our present system doesn’t work. We know this because we have increasing poverty while a few people get richer. There’s also climate change that is being ignored by the politicians at the behest of those same rich people. There’s multiple other points where the rich are preventing us from making the changes we need all because they want to be richer. This is, inevitably, leading us to the collapse of our society as it has led to the collapse of every society that tried it in the last 5000 years.

        The weight of history is on the side of societies that don’t have rich people.

      • Paul 6.2.3

        It has been tried and it did work .
        Your neoliberal obsession does not work for all but the 1%

  6. johnm 7

    The U$K has descended into a money grubbing hell hole of inequality where beneficiaries are persecuted with extreme sanctions to the point of destitution and suicide while the wife of war criminal Tony Blair greedily gobbles up property to make money off the hapless tenants.

    The god Mammon is worshipped there to the exclusion of anything else. The rot set in with that Thatcher woman.

    Since Thatcher sold off all the public housing there is nowhere for poor people to get decent living conditions except with parasite landlords out to exploit them.

    ” British children no longer aspire to be train drivers or nurses, more than a fifth now say they “just want to be rich”: wealth and fame are the sole ambitions of 40% of those surveyed(9). A government study in June revealed that Britain is the loneliness capital of Europe(10). We are less likely than other Europeans to have close friends or to know our neighbours. Who can be surprised, when everywhere we are urged to fight like stray dogs over a dustbin? ” falling apart

    • johnm 7.1

      ” Great council house sell-off scandal: Right-to-buy council houses leave nowhere for poor to live ”
      ” Margaret Thatcher’s right-to-buy scheme reduced the stock of social housing, with disastrous consequences ”

      ” Ian Gilbert, deputy leader of Southend council, one of those which has discovered Right to Buy owners immediately renting out their homes, said: “We face a massive housing challenge in Southend, caused partly by the loss of property sold under Right To Buy. It is perverse that so many have ended up in the hands of buy-to-let landlords.” ”

      In the immortal words of that woman Thatcher” In a high imperious voice brooking no dissent ” There is no such thing as Society! “

  7. Paul 8

    Generation Rent: ignored, insecure – and on the rise
    Politicians ignore the number of people renting property at their peril – they could become a hugely powerful political faction

  8. Doug Stuart 9

    “Donates most of his salary to charity” just like John Key

  9. reason 10

    Keys has 9 houses and other Nats own even more.

    Their capital gains which they will not tax more than makes up for any pretend donations Key and others may be making.

    Unlike Chavez they are enriching themselves and the already wealthy.

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