A few days ago, as I was strolling around the center of tourist London, I suddenly had an idea. I had a solution for London’s chronic housing shortage.
As most of you are aware, the UK is facing its biggest housing shortfall on record with a backlog of four million homes. Recent research has concluded that England must build 340,000 homes per year until 2031 to meet demand, a figure significantly higher than the government’s current estimates.
The number of people sleeping rough has risen by some 170 percent since 2010, while the number of families living in temporary accommodation is set to reach 100,000 by 2020 unless the government can provide more social housing.
A major part of the problem is a lack of available land. Many charities for the homeless have called on the government to overhaul the way it sells land and find funding for new homes – the government must prioritise the sale of public land for social housing.
With these thoughts in mind, I set out to explore some of London’s iconic tourist sights; the historic Tower of London, the British Museum, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. I was especially interested in Buckingham Palace and hoped to catch the Changing of the Guard. If I was lucky, I could a walk along the The Mall, perhaps following a detachment of the Old Guard with musical support from their Regimental Band, on their way from St. James’s Palace.
Imagine my surprise when I arrived at my first stop, the Houses of Parliament. The streets were crowded with tourists but were strangely silent. Everyone that I could see was walking with their noses buried in their Smartphones. Some were just studying the screen, other were tapping carefully at the tiny keys sending important messages to their ‘friends’. No-one was taking any notice of the imposing Parliament buildings. (I hoped that some were reading my books – The Len Palmer Mysteries from Amazon but had no way to tell.)
The answer came to me in a flash. All that is needed to solve the housing crisis is to demolish these famous landmarks and use the land for social housing. Knock down the Tower, level the Houses of Parliament, get rid of Buckingham Palace, and there will be enough space to house the homeless. The government could give new meaning to Emma Lazarus’s famous 1883 poem, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses” and build instant slums on land fit for a Queen.
But what, you ask, will draw the tourists to London. What will happen to the much-needed tourist Dollars? The answer is obvious. Before we knock down the old buildings, we will take full 3-D photos. Much of the work has already been done by Google Street View. As Google says, “Explore world landmarks, discover natural wonders, and step inside locations such as museums ….” Tourists will be able to walk London’s streets as before, their noses still buried in their Smartphones, looking at the famous landmarks, even wandering around a virtual British Museum. For a small fee, they could have a brief WhatsApp conversation with the Queen as they walk past a virtual Buckingham Palace. Only the most curious of tourists, taking a moment to glance up from their screens, would see the vast housing estate that has taken the Palace’s place.