Funny because it's true: "Tories to build thousands of affordable second homes"


The UK humour site Daily Mash nails the UK's transformation into a Torified, bank-centric place where the need for shelter is a vulnerability to exploit in order to enrich yourself at the expense of the people around you with a brilliant short piece: "Tories to build thousands of affordable second homes." Read the rest

Tube-map labelled with one-bedroom flat rental rates


Since the crisis, the number of people renting in the UK has sharply increased, but the number of landlords has decreased, as a smaller and smaller number of richer and richer people control the destiny of more and more Britons. Read the rest

Interactive map of the swathes of England owned by offshore tax-dodgers

Whole regions of England are now owned by holding companies in tax-havens "from Panama to Luxembourg, and from Liechtenstein to the South Pacific island of Niue." Read the rest

For sale: one volcano supervillain lair

The Volcano House, "a saucer shaped mid-century icon perched on top of a 150-foot cinder cone," is $650,000 or best offer -- but you'll have to commute to the Mojave. Read the rest

Los Angeles is selling off some very odd lots, including a sidewalk corner

The 50 properties for sale on behalf of the City of LA are unusual and encumbered, the weird offspring of zoning rules, surveyors' errors, and complex subrights, like the "air rights" over a given piece of land. Read the rest

How Seattle's economic boom is destroying the city

Jeff writes, "While reading Cory's recent post about leaving London reminded me more of the unaffordable real estate in Vancouver, British Columbia, it resembles some of the dramatic effects of Amazon and other technology companies driving incredible growth and development here in Seattle. Read the rest

Real estate bubble drives urban blight

The West Village's unique identity made it one of the most valued real-estate spots in the world, which is why its bohemian tenants are being forced out by landlords who jack up the rent and leave the place empty until they can convince a multinational to sign a lease -- it's Mark Jacobs versus Jane Jacobs. Read the rest

Loopholes let billionaires duck NYC property tax

The rules for tax on NYC condos is so sinister and stultifyingly boring that it's not really surprising that they disguise a raft of loopholes that let the richest New Yorkers duck the property taxes that keep the city running. Read the rest

Victorian mansion for sale with spaceship attic

There are lots of £3,250,000 mansions around London's Crystal Palace, but there aren't many whose attics have been converted to spaceship control rooms. The estate-agent-ese in the posting is enough to melt your eyeballs, but I gather that this place is has 8 bedrooms, is about 7,000sqft, and is both Gothic Grade II and Victorian Grade II listed (or possibly these are interchangeable).

11 bedroom detached house for sale (via Geekologie) Read the rest

Should you short the London property bubble?

Economist Tim Harford answers my question: How would you short the London property bubble? in a column that also asks the important question: should you? Read the rest

How would you short London?

Here's a finance riddle: how would you short London's property bubble? House prices are up GBP50K in the last six months, our freeholder is making noises about either buying or forcing us out in order to build a giant tower, and they sold off Scotland Yard (!). They say the market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent, and I've been marvelling at the irrationality of London's property market since I moved there in 2003. Just for the sake of argument, if you wanted to put a bet down on a property value crash, how would you make it? Read the rest

Facebook passwords: many employers can snoop them, and don't need to ask

US senators are calling for action on employers' habit of demanding employees' Facebook passwords, but no one seems to notice that many companies configure their computers so that they can eavesdrop on your Facebook, bank, and webmail passwords, even when those passwords are "protected" by SSL. In my latest Guardian column, "Protecting your Facebook privacy at work isn't just about passwords," I talk about how our belief that property rights -- your employer's right to control the software load on the computer they bought for your use -- have come to trump privacy, human rights and basic decency.

Firms have legitimate (ish) reasons to install these certificates. Many firms treat the names of the machines on their internal networks as proprietary information (eg, but still want to use certificates to protect their users' connections to those machines. So rather than paying for certificates from one of the hundreds of certificate authorities trusted by default in our browsers – which would entail disclosing their servers' names – they use self-signed certificates to protect those connections.

But the presence of your employer's self-signed certificate in your computers' list of trusted certs means that your employer can (nearly) undetectably impersonate all the computers on the internet, tricking your browser into thinking that it has a secure connection to your bank, Facebook, or Gmail, all the while eavesdropping on your connection.

Many big firms use "lawful interception" appliances that monitor all employee communications, including logins to banks, health providers, family members, and other personal sites.

Read the rest

China's housing bubble: ghost malls, ghost highrises, and ghost cities

Here's an Australian TV documentary about China's housing bubble which has given rise of bizarre ghost malls, ghost highrises, and even ghost cities. It's symptomatic of the growing divide between China's rich and poor, which has left many Chinese without adequate housing. Unlike the US bubble, the Chinese property bubble isn't founded on cheap credit, which makes the analyst hosting the show believe that it won't burst in the same way as American one.

China's Ghost Cities and Malls Read the rest

Activists seize Saif Gadaffi's London mansion

A group of activist squatters have occupied Saif "War Criminal/Plagiarist/Zillionaire" Gadaffi's swanky £10M mansion in London's Mayfair.
A spokesman for the group said "We didn't trust the British government to properly seize the Gaddafi regime's corrupt assets, so we took matters into our own hands."

"The British government only recently stopped actively helping to train the Libyan regime in "crowd control" techniques, through the Department for Business Innovation and Skills and a midlands based arms manufacturer, NMS Systems. As well as training the regime in repression, British corporations are also guilty of providing the same weapons that are now being used by Gaddaffi against the Libyan people."

The mansion is managed by Gaddaffi through a holding company registered in the British Virgin Islands. The spokesman for occupiers said "Gaddafi, Mubarak, the House of Saud and numerous other tyrants use front companies in British protectorates to avoid paying tax and above all to protect their anonymity. Britain actively assists tyrants, corporations and the super rich to rob their people blind. Our aim is to make sure that the assets stolen by Gaddafi are returned to the Libyan people and don't disappear into the pockets of governments or corporations. In the meantime we want to welcome refugees from the conflict in Libya and those fleeing tyranny and oppression across the world."

Saif Gaddafi's london mansion occupied (Thanks, Tim!)

(Image: Nusibab)  Saif Gadaffi promises guns and reinforcements to murderous ... Following the Libyan uprising - Boing Boing Gadaffhi Junior's PhD celebrates "soft power," democracy - Boing Boing Read the rest

US house prices fall to 1890s levels (where they usually are)

According to Case-Shiller/S&P, US housing prices have fallen to levels not seen since the 1890s (adjusted for inflation, of course), in 11 of 20 markets. It looks like this is slightly skewed by the serious economic problems in rustbelt cities, which is not to say that things aren't pretty terrible -- and the same analysis predicts a further decline of 15-20%.
Some years back, Yale Professor Robert Shiller produced a long-run nominal home price index for the U.S. by fusing together data that had been gathered from a number of historical archives.

Shiller then adjusted the index for inflation revealing the very interesting fact that, in real terms, prices for U.S. homes changed very little over the span from 1890 to the mid-1990s.

This might come as a surprise to many since recent "common sense" notions held that homes were always a great investment carrying the implication that they must typically increase in value yet, the reality is that over the long run home prices must stay in-line with changes in the level of income (the source generally used to fund the home cost) or else typical households would not be capable of making a purchase.

Home prices falling to level of 1890s  House prices plummet in Detroit, Indianapolis, Cleveland - Boing Boing What happens to junk left behind in foreclosed homes? - Boing Boing September 2008 crash cost $108K per US household - Boing Boing Depressing million-dollar London homes - Boing Boing Artists buying cheap houses in Detroit - Boing Boing Daily Show on the housing crisis: Why can't Geithner sell his ... Read the rest

Corporate developers abandon "underwater" property -- why not individuals?

Tishman Speyer Properties and its co-investors just walked away from the largest real-estate deal in US history, simply defaulting on the properties and the loans that bought them and leaving their creditors in the lurch. The properties, Manhattan's 56-building, 11,232-unit Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town, were "under water" (worth less than the debt hanging over them), so the corporate developers elected to simply jettison them.

They're not alone -- Morgan Stanley recently dumped five San Francisco office buildings, stiffing their creditors when the buildings went underwater.

As a business-strategy it makes sense: why repay loans secured by assets that are worth less than the loans? Just turn the assets over and cut your losses.

But individuals are shamed, bullied, and counselled not to do this when it's their private homes that fall underwater. Everyone from former US Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson to credit counsellors to the Mortgage Bankers Association tell you that defaulting on underwater property is low and dishonest (unless you're a Wall Street player -- then it's just "protecting shareholder value").

Former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson once said: "And let me emphasize, any homeowner who can afford his mortgage payment but chooses to walk away from an underwater property is simply a speculator - and one who is not honoring his obligations."

The head of the Mortgage Bankers Association, John Courson, played up the moral argument against walking away, telling the Wall Street Journal last month: "What about the message they will send to their family and their kids and their friends?

Read the rest