Colin's Journal: A place for thoughts about politics, software, and daily life.

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May 25th, 2005

UK House Prices

The UK housing market is a strange beast these days. The price of property has soared across the country, reducing the opportunity of those on an average wage to buy somewhere to live. Partly this is the result of a long term trend: the increasing numbers of people living alone driving up the need for more property. Those that do buy houses are now paying 4.5 times their average income for them, compared to an average of 3.2 between 1986 and 2000 (source: OPDM Housing Stats) .

Royal Ontario Museum ExtensionWith first time buyers unable to afford even a tiny house the government is floating various plans to try and address the problem. The latest of these involves the government buying a part share in a house alongside the individual, so reducing the cost for first time buyers. How anyone expects pumping more money into the property market and increasing the number of buyers will lead to house prices becoming more affordable is beyond me. There are only two ways to make housing more affordable: either choke off demand and burst the current asset buble by increasing interest rates (something the Bank of England is slowly doing) or by build a large number of new houses.

The government has taken the longest period of sustained growth in history, added in steadily increasing taxation and still manages to run a defecit of £35.8 billion (over 3% of GDP). Under such circumstances we should be cutting expenditure, not dreaming up new wasteful and market distorting subsidies.

Photo: Bread for sale at the Borough Market.

May 2nd, 2005

Back from February

Returning to London’s weather after a week spent time-travelling to February is a pleasant relief. Toronto had, according to multiple sources, a most temperate climate the week before I visited. When I arrived the weather had turned into a mixture of grey, wet and cold. I still had a good time however, having opportunity to meet up with most of the people I was hoping to see.

Royal Ontario Museum ExtensionIn some respects being away from Toronto allowed me to see the city with fresh eyes. I had repressed most of the dilapidation that large portions of Toronto neighbourhoods suffer from. London’s old 1960’s tower blocks always stand out to me, and yet Toronto has plenty of similar buildings. The three floor Victorian house that makes up most of Toronto’s residential housing are still spacious in comparison to London’s offering, but they are often in a poor state of repair in comparison. On the other hand Toronto still seems to provide a much safer environment than London, and for the same money you can obtain a far better standard of living.

I found it amusing to hear Edge 102’s advert for their “history of new music” show. Here I was packing my bag before returning to the UK, and the Edge was still advertising a “new music” program that was running five years ago when I first visited Toronto.

The extension of the ROM is well underway now, presenting a striking image for anyone happening upon it. My first impression of the construction focused not on the structure, but rather the sheer quantity of steel beams that are involved. The effect is like one of a diseased growth, the steel oozing out of the court yard and partially consuming the original building. The beams themselves are extremely dense, managing to create a sense of claustrophobia in what is not yet a sealed space.

None of my photos really summarise the overall feeling of the extension, but they do capture certain aspects of it fairly well. Today’s picture brings the idea of the, very literal, overshadowing of the old building’s facade.

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Copyright 2009 Colin Stewart

Email: colin@owlfish.com