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Fact or Fiction?
The year in housing

December 2012

The mysterious Michael Green

The mysterious Michael Green

Like many years before it, 2012 has been a 52-week affair. And for every single one, it seemed, the Government had a new housing announcement to make – no matter how inconsequential. To save your precious time, we have distilled the housing year into six pivotal moments. Your job is to work out which one is a complete fabrication.

Max Salsbury
24housing Magazine

1 The mysterious Michael Green

“Britain’s greatest post-war housing minster” read none of the newspapers the day after the unctuous Grant Shapps was shuffled out of the role in September. And then things got weird, for it transpired that Shapps was also Michael Green – vendor of dubious software and other cryptic cyber services. So who was he? Was he a government minister, or some kind of rogue PC World salesman? Did he even exist at all? Shapps has now been replaced by Mark Prisk – a man with apparently no interest in the internet, or building new homes for that matter.

2 Long walk home

Westminster City Council proved it was willing to go the extra mile for its tenants during 2012. Actually it was willing to go an extra 54 miles, kindly finding accommodation for its homeless families in Bletchley, near Milton Keynes. Blaming the Government’s benefit caps for swelling its homeless lists, a councillor sought to soothe anxiety with the explanation: “The homes we offer are affordable with excellent transport links into central London”. Kind words. Kind, hopeless words. To be fair to Westminster, they weren’t the only borough to indulge in a spot of social cleansing; Croydon, Newham and Waltham Forest (to name but three) all tried their luck with Hull, Stoke and Margate on the receiving end of their relocation policies.

3 Good press

This was the year that housing and its travails finally found some newspaper space amid the usual dross. Messrs Cameron and Clegg descended on building sites; Shapps was so media-friendly he virtually moved in with Andrew Neil; Joey Essex commented on the Government’s house-building stimulus package (probably); and Policy Exchange’s report recommending that councils sold their most expensive housing exploded right in the midst of the silly season. The result: hacks eagerly tearing into housing stories they wouldn’t normally touch with a 10-foot typewriter in their feverish mission to divert attention from the Leveson inquiry.

4 Sky high

This year saw the implementation of the Government’s much-anticipated ‘Helium Homes’ scheme. Originating in Scandinavia, the tethered airship properties float above the Earth’s surface, thus neatly avoiding confrontations with NIMBYs. Some critics have complained that the bedroomed blimps are prone to lightning strikes, but housing minister Mark Prisk brushed these aside when he said the chances of a catastrophe were “only six-to-one, if not lower”. Low cost and environmentally friendly, the coalition hopes to launch another 700 of the aerial abodes, which can each house up to 150 people depending on their weight, during 2013.

5 Unlocalism

Eric Pickles, for it was he, patiently waited until the Localism Act came into force this year before trampling all over it like the ‘Stay Puft’ marshmallow man from Ghostbusters. Stratford-upon-Avon’s residents were scathing over the porcine secretary of state’s top-down trouncing of local desires when he gave his blessing for an 800-home building project near the former home of Shakespeare’s missus, Anne Hathaway. Hilary Benn didn’t mince his words; he just used a lot of them when he described Pickles’ localism as “Communist ‘democratic centralism’ in disguise”. Sounds like Eric’s taken inspiration from Hilary’s dad…

6 You’ve been DWP’d

The DWP couldn’t screw up a sheet of paper this year without it hitting the headlines. The ‘bedroom tax’; Universal Confusion, sorry, Credit; the tragicomedy double-act of Lord Freud and Iain Duncan Smith; and Atos, the company helping the DWP to bring down the benefit bill by encouraging people into coffins, have, at various points, provided the nationals with plenty of story potential. Sadly, it seems, the public at large swallow the Daily Mail’s take on welfare reform and see the DWP as the saviour of the taxpayer rather than the merciless tormentor of the poor that it really is.

Click here to reveal the answer

ANSWER: Number 4. Sadly the scheme was deflated by the NIMAS (not in my air space) brigade.