Development and maintenance: balancing fair rent

There is no point in new building unless we factor in maintaining our current stock. There should be an agreed balance between development and maintenance (perhaps ratio 1:4) with privately owned and public buildings and infra-structure being prioritised for maintenance.

The notion that local authorities should meet briefly to give out maintenance contracts, misses the purpose of our personal connection to place. We make our home and our neighbourhood. If the group with responsibility for maintaining public space has prioritised price and profit above people and place, then we are privatising principles.

I am more broadly religious than deeply religious enjoying the cultures of many faiths. In my view the most successful business is the church. In England, for example, there are 16,000 parish churches with over 28,000 assorted vicars ministering to every neighbourhood in the land. This institution has been growing/slimming and maintaining its assets for 1,500 years and more. At one point it was so successful the crown stole most of its abbeys and it still survived. Most businesses fail within 2 or 3 years, few survive 50 years and exceptional businesses may last 100 years. But none has had the staying power of the church. In other places it is the temple or mosque with a similar track record.

Perhaps we should be looking more closely at the evidence for how and why the church has flourished for so long. Churches create a sense of place. They are the heart and soul of a community. They have promoted graft and craft, literally carved stone on stone, molten metal into sculpture, word into poetry and literature, music into song and dance, performance entwined with perfume and rapture.

Rent seems to be an attempt to slice off a profit, to create idleness for a few, undermining the group ethic of putting up a building by a legal sleight of hand to give benefit to the few, at the expense of collective achievement. The notion that those who manipulate financial figures should receive on-going recompense, above and beyond the contributions of architects, engineers, manufacturers and builders is absurd. The component in “rent” that is service – for example cleaning and utilities, is sensible; or maintenance – to fix rooves and broken windows, is good. But when you try to add profit – then rent makes itself penury rather than parish.

Perhaps we need to consider how the foundation of culture is finding rhythm and harmony together and remember that all land and building is evidence before our eyes of the essential collective nature of human existence. For there is scarcely a single building that has just been put up by one person – many hands helped. We need a simple law to remind us that all land and building is owned by the sovereign people: ourselves as a culture. The other tiers of private ownership can remain as essentially responsibilities to make good use of what others have given us. Empty buildings are an insult to heritage and we should be making sensible arrangements for their speedy return to use. As for using buildings as a profit medium, it seems to fly in the face of common sense. It is an area where our current reality must change – can’t you hear the groans of the younger generation trying to cope with exorbitant housing costs in places built by their grandparents?

Now this is not the prevailing view, but an historical perspective looking through the prism of arguably the most successful enterprise through the ages. When we introduce this new law for land reform (land is owned by the sovereign people), it should be done with a view to gradual and assured steps that keep the continuing order of most commons, while pruning the disruptive influence of greed in the property market