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Ian Martin: Human viability assessment

Ian Martin
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Twitter is teeming with orchestrated anger over #socialvalueengineering and #regenocide

MONDAY All those liberals currently honking and snorting from the cheap seats about my rebootiquing of housing estates can wind it in, frankly. Recent events have taught us that the need to be seen to be humane is paramount. That’s why I am recommending to a certain cartel - local authorities, housing developers, philanthropists passionate about investing in the future - an urgent and humane three-stage rebootiquing overthink. Humane. There. I said it, so leave off. 

Stage 1 is the humane decanting of social tenants to safe accommodation in eg Hartlepool so that the structural probity, fire resistance etc of social housing may be assessed. 

Stage 2 is the humane repair and rehabilitation of estates, paid for by the equity from converting some or all of the flats into gorgeous metropolitan 3D ISAs.

Stage 3 is the humane evaluation of former tenants for rehoming in the rebootiqued estate, or ‘urban village’. Quality candidates will be selected from the former tenant community and shortlisted for any social housing units that may remain, post-rebootiquement. 

Let me say again, wearily, that this is not ‘social cleansing’. This is humane ‘social value engineering’, a specialist consulting skill that commands a generous hourly rate.  

TUESDAY By 4am the Twitter time zone before mine is teeming with orchestrated anger over #socialvalueengineering. 

There are even clumsy accusations that my estate regeneration approach is some kind of societal ‘cull’. Or, as one shrieking lunatic with a profile picture of an anime turtle calls it, #regenocide.

I eventually do the ‘right thing’ and issue a grudging public apology for any offence that may have been opportunistically taken. I hope we can all draw a line under social value engineering. It was a bold experiment carried out in good faith. 

WEDNESDAY Emergency meeting of the humane regeneration consortium. How to proceed with the vital work of estate rebootiquing now that a backlash is partially underway? 

Already smart-arse commentators are pointing out that the warning signs were there. Even Darcy Farquear’say of the Creative on Sunday, who has never shown the slightest interest in anyone living outside Council Tax Band H, has taken a little spin around the outrage circuit in his bumption car: ‘If only everyone else had, like me, realised in hindsight that converting social assets built with public money into a vast shareholders’ milking parlour would cause this level of controversy, well perhaps then we would all have been that little bit wiser, as I believe I warned we should have been, years ago.’

Not that I begrudge Darcy his pretend concern about social housing. He’s gone entirely off the rails since the death of his long-term animal companion. A corgi, I think, called something like Pomo.  

THURSDAY Actually, it’s good that the consortium is moving away from social value engineering, a concept borrowed from the world of architecture and widely understood to mean corner-cutting.

I’m recommending that from now on we take our cue from the much cleverer world of property development and start talking about human viability assessment. At the start of the rebootiquing, we can promise everyone a home. Then about halfway through, we can look at profit margins and decide that actually we need to reduce the eligibility index for those who ‘deserve’ social housing.

We are not monsters, of course. The ‘who do we have to give a fuck about?’ conversation should range as widely as possible. It’s essential that advice is sought from a broad spectrum of stakeholders including local authorities, housing developers and philanthropists passionate about investing in the future.

We should not be afraid to ask the unaskable questions, eg do baristas necessarily have ‘to live’ somewhere? How viable are underground on-site dormitories for key workers? Why should children enjoy the same ceiling heights as adults?

In the end, we interrogate our belief systems in this way simply because we care.

FRIDAY Lunch with Darcy, who’s very subdued. He’s at the third stage of grief already: tattoos. 

In the last week alone he’s had a Mies van der Rohe and a late Corb on his upper arms. The slenderest of designs, obviously. I’ll be honest, I don’t think Modernist tattoos really work. I mistook his Niemeyer for something out of Thunderbirds. 

SATURDAY Five-a-zeitgeist theoretical football. Subruralism 1, Superbanism 2.

SUNDAY Viability assessment in the recliner. Disbelief still suspended, top marks.

Epic Space, an anthology of Ian Martin’s columns for the AJ, is published by Unbound 


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