Vague ramblings

Housing: if only there was a way to encapsulate the problem….

Posted in Life, Urbanism by Ian Cundell on 10 February, 2017

So a housing White Paper came out. It called for a wider range of housing providers. Up to a point.

If only there was a single image that encapsulates where the real problem is. If only there were… oh. Wait.

If only there was a way to encapsulate the problem

If only there was a way to encapsulate the problem


All my bags are packed…

Posted in Life, Personal, St Albans by Ian Cundell on 1 March, 2015

…and when I say ‘all’ I mean all, from my venerable Karrimor Jaguar rucksack to my dad’s suitcase from when he was a commercial driver and on to a tartan thing that really shouldn’t be seen in public and which, save for some unexpected extra stuff, would have been quietly shuffled off to a charity shop.

I have sold my house and, thanks to a vendor being a right dickhead at the worst possible time of year, am temporarily of no fixed abode while I wait for a house I want to become available. And that means that a person who prefers to travel light, can’t. But still, an important and overdue life change is at last under way, even if I still don’t know where it will end up.

Here is some stuff I’ve discovered:

*Having a good buyer is like gold dust. Craig didn’t dick around for one moment, although he was mightily dicked around himself and I’m fairly sure he has had to promise the soul of his first-born to Nationwide;

* The new recycling arrangements in St Albans are an abomination and whoever came up with them should be fired and never allowed to work in public service again. They are a positive inducement to fly-tip;

* That you have much, much more stuff than you think you do;

* That the thing – you know that thing – that might come in handy one day, won’t – so take it to the sodding dump or a charity shop;

* That putting your cats, who have hung out with you for more than a decade, into a cattery is really distressing, but that the people at Cayton’s get that;

* That family, friends and neighbours – Alan, Sian, Daz and Will, Miah and Silvia, Jes, really step up;

* That, when having a last look round before the house ceases to be legally mine and spotting an envelope, picking it up and realising it is the words I wrote for Dad’s funeral causes all the “I’m really not that sentimental about this” nonsense to unspool in an instant.

Just over 60 years ago, Doreen and Ken moved into a council house of the kind they don’t let working class people have any more. Two days ago, that era ended and Craig has big dreams to make a wonderful home for him and his partner. I am quite certain that Mum and Dad would have liked them.

Time to go.

London housing: going where the evidence leads

Posted in Business, Urbanism by Ian Cundell on 24 July, 2014

Ramidus Consulting, the real estate and workplace adviser that I am proud to be associated with, spent a big chunk of late 2013 and early 2014 taking a very close – I would argue forensic – look at the challenges presented by the presence of very wealthy investors in the City of Westminster, in particular to “quantify and describe the scale and nature of the Prime residential market in Westminster and to consider its impact on the economy and communities.”

The client was the City itself and the result was published today.

The report has been well received, with one real estate professional calling it ‘fascinating‘  while another very experienced property PR man said “At last, some objective & concrete analysis of London’s PCL market“. It would be fair to say that all at Ramidus are delighted with the response to the report so far. It was a difficult and challenging project and, of course, highly politically sensitive.

So we are especially proud that we were able to stick with the approach that Ramidus always uses: we go where the evidence leads.  Many of our initial assumptions were turned on their heads, we found many avenues that we would have liked to explore in more depth, but which were outside the scope of the research and we came to appreciate the astonishing complexity of housing not just in the City of Westminster but in London as a whole.

The “in a nutshell” conclusions are summarised in the final chapter, in terms of two critical questions:

  • Does the increasing price and volume of higher value housing impact on Westminster’s ability to meet housing needs in the borough?

It is hard to deny this.

  •  Is there a planning policy that could mitigate or change that, without creating alternative problems?

We cannot envisage one within existing frameworks.

This is Westminster’s (and, it must be said, London’s) ‘intractable problem’.

I urge anyone interested in housing in London to grab the report – download it here – and to take your time reading it.

We have, of course, continued thinking about the issues in the report and many others we found in the course of research. It would be inappropriate to discuss them here, lest people get the idea we ‘speak for Westminster’, but I will return to them in future blogs.


A Jesuit fable: get ready for Generation Debt

Posted in Business, Musing by Ian Cundell on 2 October, 2013

Isn’t that just typical? You wait ages for someone outside the halls of academia to reference the Phillips Curve and then two come along at once.

Almost as my last blog auto-posted, the new issue of Property Week landed on my doormat and there was Peter Pereira Gray, managing director of the investment division at Wellcome Trust – I think we can agree, a pretty damned respectable organisation – nodding to Phillips. It is an interesting article and well worth tracking down, if you don’t take Property Week (27-1-13, p27). It raises reasonable questions about the effectiveness of Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney’s reliance on unemployment as a policy indicator, suggesting that commercial property (and, as it happens my thesis in this short series of blogs) had better hope he is right.

I say “as it happens” because my interest in Carney’s stance is from a different angle.

(more…)

Inflated expectations: the Phillips Curve ball

Posted in Business, Musing by Ian Cundell on 27 September, 2013

We are very good at ignoring information that conflicts with our world view. Call it over-confidence in your current forecast, call it confirmation bias, call it Albert. The phenomenon is well known.

In my last blog I described how a multi-generational experience of inflation – but especially the cancerous inflation of the 1970s – has shaped perception on what is and isn’t a safe investment for ordinary people. Since then I carried on prodding and poking the numbers and found something interesting, especially when combined with some other tidbits. (more…)

Stagflation: bet your house on it?

Posted in Business, Musing by Ian Cundell on 25 September, 2013

My chum Mark Clementson’s question was simple enough: what would happen to £10,000 left in a bank account in 1966, the short answer being that the paperwork to access it would probably be quite tiresome.

But that’s not the interesting bit. (more…)

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