Is it time for a post-settlement society?
Are home ownership, long-term council house tenancies and commitment to a community doomed to become little more than quaint memories of how society used to work? Do they restrict the mobility of skills, knowhow and muscle power that a modern economy demands?
There are many that argue this case. Richard Florida suggests in his book The Great Reset that the creative classes should no longer tie themselves down geographically by committing to mortgages and buying properties. Grant Shapps, Housing Minister wants social housing tenants to have Housing Freedom Pass and a National Home Swap Scheme to allow tenants to move in pursuit of work, or for ‘any other reason’.
The message seems to be ‘don’t commit yourself to a community – be prepared to follow the money – the future is nomadic’.
Can you imagine a society divided into the rooted and the rootless? Those who can afford to commit to a community for the long term and those who can’t?
It used to be that we wanted people to come to our communities and stay in them. To shape a society and an economy that would serve the community. To care about community. Now the big idea seems to be shaping community to serve the economy.
- Is this progress? Or a progress trap?
- Should we engineer society to meet the increasingly dynamic demands of a growing and shifting economy?
- Or should we engineer the economy to serve the kind of communities in which we wish to live?
- Will increasing social mobility help to reduce inequalities and promote social justice? Or will it create even more stark demarcations between rich and poor?
- How will our city evolve if the churn in our working communities is significantly increased?
- Or will the possibility of a digital Britain and an economy that is ‘lighter than air‘ mean that spatial mobility is much less of an issue than we may think?
- Or is it just a lot of fuss about nowt?