It’s the Same the Whole World Over, Including the U.K.

 

It’s the same the whole world over,

It’s the poor what gets the blame,

While the rich ‘as all the pleasure,

Now ain’t that a blinkin’ shame.

 

So sang the British vaudeville performers over a hundred years ago, and we are getting a reminder of their wisdom in our field. We all know about the NIMBY phenomenon over here, but it is also alive and well over in the UK. It seems that over there, the same as over here, when you try to build sorely needed housing, you run into protests of NIMBY neighbors who try to keep the newcomers out. We learn this from the New York Times, Jenny Anderson, Britain Confronts Not-in-My-Backyard Attitudes, July 9, 2014, at p. B4.

It goes pretty much the same way as over here.  When a local developer proposed to build 34 homes, “30 miles southwest of London, it was doing just what Britain’s leaders were calling for; trying to alleviate a severe housing shortage that politicians consider a critical factor in the country’s soaring real estate costs.” That may sound good, but “[t]he local planning authority refused the initial 34-house proposal, raising a number of concerns — including calls for the installation of special external lighting to avoid disturbing the nocturnal activities of bats.” Bats’ “nocturnal activities”?! That’s what it says.

“There was also a requirement for an exploratory dig to ensure that a ditch was not, as some believed it might be, a repository for medieval treasures.” In other locales, objections to home building were based on such gems as “the safety of badgers, reptiles,  and other wildlife, and even the potential loss of a venerable chicken coop.”

In the meantime, while this nonsense went on “Britain’s housing shortage has grown worse.” The Chancellor of the Exchequer is quoted as making the sensible observation that “the shortage [of housing] was pushing home prices higher — up more than 25 percent in the last year in London and 12 percent in Britain over all. That, he said, was causing too many people to take on too much debt, posing perhaps the greatest threat to the country’s strong economic recovery.”

So in the end — at least one hopes it’s the end — instead of those 34 new homes, the developer was permitted to build 14, four of which would be deemed “affordable.” And what about that chicken coop? Has it been saved? Sort of — it is being moved but ever so carefully, so that it is not damaged in the process. “Apparently it has sentimental value, ” said the site contractor charged with executing that delicate task.

As of this writing, there was no word from the bats.

As for the Britons who lack proper housing that they can afford, they’ll just have to lump it. As that vaudeville song tells us, they get, if not the blame, at least the burden of a housing shortage while the NIMBY gentry gets to enjoy their ambience and the lavish gains in home prices that do wonders for their home equities.

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