Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Who is the woman on the balcony? What does she say about London's housing debacle?

The woman on the balcony © London Intelligence 2015

She’s poised like a Tsarina on a palace balcony.
Two topiarised olive trees flank her, like sentries.
She’s clad in candid evening sunshine and a clinging, pristine white, sleeveless sports top with matching white bottoms.

Where is she?
Well, she’s right where she’s meant to be.
Inside your head.
Does her image stir you? Fire your imagine. Will she turn with all that flowing hair and fluid bronzed skin, face you and, knowingly, reciprocate your gaze?

Who is she?
Maybe she is like you. Or, at least matches your desired self-image? 
Does she possess the ‘beach body’ you want and embody the lifestyle you crave?

The manicured fantasy image of the woman on the balcony is conceived by marketing people – a 'species' once labelled as ‘Satan’s little helpers’ by the American comedian Bill Hicks.
The ad’s message says splash out and buy a new luxury apartment – and you too could live that dream-come-true lifestyle – with all its potential sexual potency.
Chaps, the woman on the balcony might like you.
Ladies, you could be like the woman on the balcony.

It shouldn’t surprise us that marketing people in the developer-led 'regeneration' business concoct sexualised images of women to sell new luxury homes. 
We live in an epoch of lifestyle advertising targeted at consumers who desire exciting lives. 
Advertisers try to show how their products and services meet these desires.
Many ad folk believe sex sells almost everything, including real estate to wealthy newcomers.
And, that belief clearly stretches to selling new luxury apartments that are replacing the West Hendon public housing estate in north-west London.

The image on the site of new luxury flats replacing council homes © Paul Coleman, London Intelligence 2015

West Hendon residents protest against loss of their homes

Certainly, the 'woman on the balcony' is not meant to represent the West Hendon estate's current tenants and leaseholders.
Many have lived on the estate for decades.
They now see their 680 homes undergoing phased demolition and their estate being rebranded as 'Hendon Waterside' - a new Barratt development of 2,000 mainly private luxury apartments with an average price of £415,000.
None of those 600-plus homes rented to council tenants will be replaced 'like-for-like' on the rebuilt estate or elsewhere in the host borough of Barnet.
Seen from this angle, the woman on the balcony symbolises a net loss of council homes.

Barnet Council consented to the development - and sold part of the council estate for just £3 on the condition that development partnership Barratt-Metropolitan agreed to build some 'affordable' homes.
Yet few decanted tenants will even be able to afford the 287 'affordable' shared ownership properties being built at 'Hendon Waterside' by Metropolitan Housing Trust.
'Short-term' low-income tenants, many of whom have lived on the west Hendon estate for five years and longer, are being evicted and displaced to other parts of Barnet and further still across London.
And leaseholders won't be able to afford a 'Hendon Waterside' apartment and balcony - as compensation levels for the loss of their homes are too low.

Prototype 'Pulse' resident dude as envisaged by marketing people © London Intelligence 2015

'They're arriving' at Pulse development near Colindale tube station © London Intelligence 2015

Similar ‘regeneration’ marketing images can be found at other new expensive private developments in London.
Take a look at 'Pulse', built by Fairview on the site of a former National Health Service hospital at Colindale, an area just a short bus ride along the Edgware Road from the West Hendon estate.
They show the intended target markets of buyers - young, white professional couples, 'hipsters', and affluent cash-rich young folk from Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. 

At nearby Beaufort Park, images of bronzed, tanned and gleaming toothed people abound.
Catwalking along a 'Mediterranean style boulevard', they look less like real residents but more like models who've just stepped out of a catalogue.
Certainly, there's no representation of working class Londoners, or elderly folk. 
No images that depict working Londoners born of Asian, Caribbean or African origins.
Or of people with disabilities.
And, definitely nobody from the nearby west Hendon or Grahame Park council estates.

The same is true of marketing images on sites elsewhere in London, such as Barratt's Royal Arsenal development in Woolwich.
Working Londoners on average and lower incomes desperately need genuinely affordable homes. 
But they're simply not the intended target market for these luxury apartments.
Just ask the ornamental mannequin on the balcony.
She'll tell you.

Pulse images aim to tempt younger affluent overseas buyers © London Intelligence 2015
Marketing imagery at Pulse © London Intelligence 2015

Marketing image at Beaufort Park © Paul Coleman, London Intelligence 2015

Marketing image at Royal Arsenal © Paul Coleman, London Intelligence 2015

To read the full version of this feature article, visit:  

© Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, May 2015

No comments: