MIPIM stands for ‘Le marché international des professionnels de l’immobilier’, which loosely translated means ‘the spivs, speculators and profiteers who caused the housing crisis’. (If any of their lawyers are reading, I should say I got a ‘U’ in my French O’ level.) These parasites, who usually meet in Cannes, are slumming it next week when they come to London. They haven’t come for the weather! It’s the first time the MIPIM cabal has visited the UK, but they’re sniffing around because the government, Boris Johnson and many local councils (including, to their shame, some under Labour Party control) have put up the ‘For Sale’ sign.
They say confession is good for the soul – I used to work in the property development industry. It’s a long story and one I find scarcely believable myself, but the experience taught me the absolute truth of the leaflet rhetoric ‘they’re only interested in money’. The company I worked for wanted to be ethical capitalists, but it’s an oxymoron (emphasis on the second syllable). The plan was to produce well-built homes that people could afford and were energy efficient, without screwing every last penny out of the process. We failed in almost every respect. In part this was because of an organisational culture that sometimes resembled a spoof TV show, but mostly because the property development industry is institutionally cynical, inefficient and self-serving.
I used to go to events like MIPIM. I’ve never been to a Freemason’s lodge, but I imagine it’s similar. It’s a back-slapping, while back-stabbing environment of false bonne homie, often laced with intoxicants and misogyny. It almost goes without saying that the over-whelming majority of participants are white, middle aged men. It’s facile to say these are ‘bad’ people, but they are doing bad things. Scores of council estates are currently threatened with demolition in the guise of ‘regeneration’, with the certain end result of a net reduction of homes that working class people can afford. Cities around the world are being re-shaped in the image of conspicuous consumption that would shame the House of Borgia. Despite what happened in 2008, governments remain in thrall to the alchemy of the property market and its false promise to spread social, economic and environmental well-being.
A broad coalition of housing campaigners, trade unionists and tenant organisations will challenge MIPIM UK next week (details here), but this must be the start of a movement that demands homes and places for people, not profit.