Glyn Robbins

After Grenfell: joining the dots

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Grenfell Tower was a disaster waiting to happen. I’ve been responsible for looking after council tower blocks in the past, including some with cladding. I shudder to think about it now.

Grenfell could have happened anywhere. The lack of adequate fire safety is a deadly symptom of how council housing has been neglected for decades. Its mismanaged decline is the result of deliberate government policies of underinvestment and denigration.

Hurricane Katrina and the 'cleansing' of social housing

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Grenfell has been referred to as a “Katrina moment”. Care must be taken with that comparison. But the reaction of the establishment would certainly be recognised by working class people in New Orleans.

Theresa “Antoinette” May’s detachment and ignorance call to mind Barbara Bush’s comment in 2005 that for people who lost their home after the hurricane and were living in shelters things were “working very well” because they were “underprivileged anyway”.

In Defense of Housing

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David Madden and Peter Marcuse have successfully done three important things.

First, as the title suggests, they’ve made a clear case for housing to be higher up the mainstream political agenda. Second, they relate housing to wider theoretical debates, including Marxist analyses of its place in capitalist society. Third — and unusually for a book written by academics — they have given space to the many campaigns and activists challenging the neoliberal dominance of housing policy. As one housing campaigner said to me, “We needed this book”.

Housing minus the market

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Housing activist Glyn Robbins guides us on a virtual tour of east London to demonstrate how the early vision of public housing for working class people became a nightmare of private speculation.

As anger about the housing crisis mounts, two interlinked features recur: political impotence and theoretical abstraction. Despite the frustration of millions of people about the lack of affordable homes, the political establishment appears to have no ideas for solving the problem.

Housing benefits

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The abandonment of council housing building has worsened dramatically the housing crisis, both socially and financially. Glyn Robbins argues the case for publicly-owned, democratically-run and high-quality social housing.

The current world economic crisis is unusual. Previous recessions have been triggered by commodity prices, runs on the banks, stock market crashes, wars, natural disasters and hyperinflation. The roots of this one lie in the absurdity of the housing market.

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