DEVELOPERS have long-since accepted the requirement to include affordable housing options in new building projects. Visit any brand new estate of ‘executive’ homes, and you’ll find a bunch of cheaper ones by the playing field at the back, with red brick instead of golden yellow, and porches minus the decorative pillars. It’s a practical way of preventing affluent ‘ghettos’ from taking over beautiful parts of the country, and a sensible solution to anyone who thinks it’s appropriate to shove a sprawling council estate in the back of beyond.
When it comes to apartment blocks, the issue of an affordable section becomes a little trickier. Externally the flats have to appear the same – it would look pretty daft to juxtapose the sleek finish of the penthouse with grey pebbledash – so any differences have to be applied elsewhere. One imagines the interior finish will be rather less plush: the kitchen Magnet rather than bespoke; the paintwork B&Q rather than Farrow & Ball. But that’s to be expected, surely? After all, an apartment in such a luxury block costs upwards of half a million; no one in their right minds would suggest occupants of the cheap flats should receive the same standard of finish.
And yet that’s exactly the debate. Admittedly not about the paint finish, but about the front door. The use of it, to be exact. Residents of these swanky homes access their building through a hotel-style reception area, with access to car and cycle parking, and a discreet area for bins and post. In stark contrast, social housing occupants are directed round the corner to what has been dubbed the ‘poor door’, where a plain lobby boasts nothing more extravagant than CCTV and a dusty spider plant. ‘Segregation!’ the naysayers are crying. ‘Social apartheid!’
But hang on: are the social housing occupants paying the hefty service charge that pays for the 24/7 concierge, the shag-pile stair carpet and the Jo Malone scented candle? They are not. So where’s the issue? No one hands me a newspaper as I exit my house, hails me a taxi or offers to polish my shoes. Because I don’t pay for the privilege. Do I carp about it to my local council? Write to my MP? Complain to the paper that I’m being discriminated against? Of course not. This world is populated by the haves and the have nots, and frankly I’m happy simply to have a roof over my head. If the budget flat occupants don’t feel the same way, they know where the door is.
Clare Mackintosh is a freelance feature-writer, columnist and crime novelist, and a former Police Inspector. Follow her on Twitter @claremackint0sh or read her blog at www.claremackintosh.com/blog