the only thing worse than being exploited…

Is if the exploiters miss you out, said Joan Robinson of capitalism.

A twofer of Owen Hatherley on Manchester. Thoughts: it’s surely a slightly odd idea that London is rich because of the housing market, rather than the other way around, although I can certainly imagine an unusually dense Blairite town-hall politician getting that impression. Bu then, I wouldn’t class the GMC pols as being that dense. And this:

In a way it’s hard to resent them and again this is the major flaw in my stuff about Manchester. The thing is I don’t remember it when it was fucked.

Well, this is the turd in the punch bowl. Is there an even vaguely credible alternative route from about 1983 forwards that goes anywhere else, thinking of the basically hostile central government for most of that period and the various path dependencies? Owen is working on the assumption that without the redevelopment era, we’d have found our way back to the high welfare state in the end, rather than – essentially – Thornton Road in Bradford. It’s a sort of sick, el cheapo parody of Tony Wilson urbanism, with converted mills that end up being rented to not one but two serial killers in ten years, and positively Sicilian half-built failed projects like the motorway to nowhere, the Interchange, Abbey National, the Millenium Faith experience, the Alsop master plan, and the rubble zone.

Actually, making a list of ’em, the periodicity between failures seems to be declining over time, the rate picking up, and one of them includes Will Alsop, so perhaps he has a point. But I still think this rant against decay-porn in a US context could be imported.


  1. Myles

    Thoughts: it’s surely a slightly odd idea that London is rich because of the housing market, rather than the other way around, although I can certainly imagine an unusually dense Blairite town-hall politician getting that impression.

    Counterexample: the relative prices of condos among different ski towns. Vail is expensive because it is rich, and it is rich because it’s got all the amenities preferred by the rich, and it’s got all these amenities because condos are so expensive everyone there was rich in the first place. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle.

    London, unlike Chicago or LA, has quite a bit of that Vail factor.

  2. Yes, but Vail is a resort.

    There is a certain self-perpetuating dynamic about high-end urban development once it takes hold – creative/media/arty/e-business hipsters buying posh flats & office space in a particular area for no other reason than that lots of creative/media/arty/e-business hipsters have got posh flats and offices there already. But you don’t start by increasing the supply of posh flats and office space, surely.

    Unlike Owen, I do remember Manchester pre-regeneration, and it was a dump; a beautiful dump, admittedly. The odd example of urban design you did see, as the 80s wore on, looked like alien landings in a war zone. Thinking about it now, it was quite a long haul from 1982 (Hac opens) to 1989 (Madchester Rave On EP, Dry Bar opens) – and the Northern Quarter only really took off after that. So perhaps it was just a long haul.

    I do wonder where the money came from. (I would say “is supposed to come from”, but it’s not a speculative question – it’s actually happened.)

    • Myles

      But you don’t start by increasing the supply of posh flats and office space, surely.

      Right. I suppose the one thing that would make a difference is the ready provision of luxury services. London has always had that advantage. It’s true Vail is a resort, but it’s also true that Whistler was built from the ground up, from scratch, in the 60’s.

      I know nothing about Manchester, obviously. My hometown is a city, however, that is more or less operating on Vail/London lines, and it’s just astounding. It’s now gotten to a point where restricting Walmart is now accepted as orthodoxy by free-market politicians. And of course, as in London but on a far more miniscule and embryonic scale, the local jobs market is starting to reflect that reality.

  3. Richard J

    I do wonder where the money came from. (I would say “is supposed to come from”, but it’s not a speculative question – it’s actually happened.)

    Not much mystery, really. It was a time before money-laundering rules became stringent.

  4. You think the laundering legislation is effective? I think it just increases the costs of doing it.




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