Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Arsenal, Arsene Wenger & Austerity: Football clubs and social and affordable housing

Following cup knockouts and defeat by the '3Bs' - Bradford City, Blackburn Rovers and, last night, to Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League - Arsenal fans can't decide whether to blame coach/manager Arsene Wenger or the famous London club's board of directors for failing to spend money on top quality new players.
   Football writers like Simon Kuper describe the club's failure to replace top departed stars, like Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie, as 'Arsenal's austerity'. 
   But D. Carnock Thomas, writing in the Financial Times, says: "Thrift on the pitch has allowed the board to finance a huge development of housing around the Emirates stadium.
   "An investment in property is likely to yield much larger and much more certain long-term pay-offs than an investment in here-today-gone-tomorrow footballers."
"Collateral damage"
However, Carnock Thomas adds the "self-serving" board's property investment has wreaked "collateral damage". He concludes: "The real effect of Arsenal's chase for money will be most keenly felt by the local community through...less social housing".  
   True, up to a point. Arsenal's gleaming 60,000-capacity Emirates arena stands amidst some 3,000 new homes, part of the Arsenal Regeneration Area. Half of these homes are open market homes but the remainder are a mix of 'affordable' homes - split between 'shared ownership', 'key worker intermediate' and 'affordable rent'. 
    Of course, the almost meaningless definition of 'affordable' depends entirely on an individual's ability to afford one of those reduced cost homes. 
Truly affordable social, or council homes to use their dying label, form little or no part of the ARA 'regeneration' - that is homes rented via a local authority at normally between 35% to 40% of the local district's average market rent.

If you're interested to know more about football clubs and their role in the provision of new homes, tap this link: 

(Top): Former Arsenal striker Thierry Henry on-site at an ARA housing development.
(Above): New homes reflected in Arsenal Emirates' stadium frontage.
Photos: Newlon Housing Trust.
Can austere Arsenal's Arsene Wenger turn his players into footballing mountaineers so they can overcome their 1-3 deficit against Bayern Munich from last night? Arsenal's second leg of their UEFA Champions League tie takes place in Munich on 13 March.

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, February 2013


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