For every two families that need a home there is one property standing empty. This isn't just inefficient it's unjust
Monday, September 13, 2010
Say it With Flowers
There are places in Liverpool that make your heart leap and others that make you want to weep. These two adjacent roads in Granby manage to do both at the same time. Granby is the very essence of a deprived community, on almost any indicator of poverty it does almost unbelievably badly. 94% of children living in poverty 70% of the resident Somali population are unemployed, cancer and heart disease rates are 250% of the national average. Why you might think would anybody want to live here? With over 11% of the houses long term empty, it might appear that they don’t. But nothing in Liverpool is ever simple. Problems have been simmering here for many years. 25 years ago they blew up. This is where the Toxteth riots took place. Last week, walking along these streets I was stopped by a life long resident. “This is their punishment for the riots” she said commenting on the row of bricked up vacant houses on her street “For daring to protest they’ve decided to grind the life out of this area.” She claimed that a deal between council and housing association meant that every house that becomes empty is bricked up rather than re-let. “We’re all getting old here” she said “in a few years we’ll all be gone, then they’ll come in and flatten all the houses.” It was enough to make grown man want to weep. But the resident’s response to the perceived war being waged against them was unexpected and extraordinary. Residents had painted the brieze blocks that replaced the windows on empty homes in Cairns Street and Beaconsfield Street. There were brightly painted curtains where windows had once been, a painted cat peeping out onto the road, butterflies, even a Tuscan castle. The front gardens of abandoned houses were neatly tended, along the length of the street every conceivable receptacle had been used as plant pots; car tyres, a water tank, a couple of old trailers, even a small chest of drawers overflowing with flowers. Most of the houses in these roads were empty, but none were unloved. In the circumstances where most communities would have given up, this one was showing a strength that truly made the heart leap.