Office blocks and shops left empty by the pandemic could soon see cities transformed into ghettos of unaffordable luxury homes thanks to a government-backed loophole, according to housing experts.Housing secretary Robert Jenrick in March laid out an extension to existing permitted development (PD) rights that will allow the conversion of empty retail units into “much needed” homes without the need for planning permission.Under the planning system, any development of more than 10 homes has to include a percentage (up to 50%) of “affordable” housing – it could be social rent, shared-ownership or the often misleading “affordable rent”, which is 80% of market level.Existing PD rights for office blocks have already seen developers run riot in London, and with more set to be abandoned by firms turning to home-working – plus the extended powers for commercial units – housing experts fear the worst.Diarmaid Ward, Islington Council’s housing lead, says the reforms are “just a way of circumventing the planning system” so developers can evade regulations around building genuinely affordable homes.In his north London borough there are 14,000 households on the housing waiting list and in 2019, the council won a landmark case against a developer who tried to avoid the 50% affordable housing quota over a site of luxury flats converted from offices. “The new rules will be a complete disaster for all the people who desperately need a secure and genuinely affordable home,” he tells HuffPost UK. “It’s as if they are set up deliberately to stop us from building homes for these people.”The reforms would mean councils can only turn down applications on very limited grounds including flood risk, noise pollution and inadequate natural light. Jenrick said the relaxation of planning restrictions will help high streets severely impacted by the pandemic to “bounce back”.“By diversifying our town and city centres and encouraging the conversion of unused shops into cafes, restaurants or even new homes, we can help the high street to adapt and thrive for the future,” he said. Almost 350,000 new homes need to be built in England per year until 2031, according to a 2018 study by Heriot-Watt University. Of those, at least 145,000 need to be affordable homes, including 90,000 for social rent.But Ward says while councils have to “fight tooth and nail” to find the funds to build homes for families who need them, developers “are given a carte blanche to do whatever they want”.He continues: “We’ve got a government that is obsessed with ideological purity and the idea that if you leave things to the free market, they’ll sort themselves out. We know that in London that’s not the case – the free market has not magically sorted out the housing crisis.”As calls grow to make remote working the default in Britain and companies move to downsize or close expensive offices, Ward agrees that empty commercial spaces could be a viable option in some cases.“It depends on the context,” he says. “As long as those spaces aren’t being currently used to provide local jobs for local people, then there are certainly circumstances where commercial buildings could be converted into residential homes – and that will be beneficial if they were converted into social rentals.”But turning office spaces into luxury homes will have a detrimental impact on local communities across the UK. He adds: “Town and city centres are the lifeblood of a community, so unless we turn these spaces into the right kind of social rent homes, we’ll be creating a dormitory city for the richest.“There’s an awful amount of work that would need to go into converting commercial premises into residential homes. There isn’t government funding available for local authorities to buy up empty buildings so there are already obstacles before you even start.”Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) president Alan Jones also believes the government’s PD rights “free-for-all” will have “severe consequences” for high streets across England, and could result in an onslaught of substandard homes.In a statement, he said he was “seriously worried” about the new planning rules.“These new freedoms are dangerously relaxed, and lack critical safeguards to prevent further damage to suffering high streets by turning essential community amenities into, all too often, substandard homes.“We urgently need well-designed, mixed use developments that provide long term value for their communities and residents, delivered by sufficiently resourced local authorities – not a race to the bottom.”Fears about the standard of housing that may result from these conversions reference the “nightmare” example of the Essex town of Harlow, where families have been crammed into “human warehouses” of former office blocks. Chris Bailey, campaigns and policy manager at the campaign group Action on Empty Homes, believes PD rights have not merely worsened the housing crisis by restricting the availability of affordable and social homes but are a license for “unscrupulous” developers to take advantage of desperate people. “We know some of these conversions have been used to house people who are entitled to social homes in extremely poor conditions,” he tells HuffPost UK. “There are some really nasty and terrible cause célèbre examples of that where people have died and their bodies have not been found for weeks.” Ward agrees. “These rules could be a charter for developers to go in and stick a few beds in an office building. A family in desperate need should not have to live in an office with a few beds, they need to live in a home. It’s complete nonsense.”The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has insisted homes built under the new system will be subject to high standards and meet space standards. The problem isn’t that the government isn’t building homes, it’s that they are building the wrong ones. “The government talks a good game on giving people’s homes and getting people on the housing ladder but actually what we’ve got is fewer people than ever owning their own home,” Bailey continues. “It’s a failure of housing policy that we are spending billions of pounds on supporting deposits and propping up housing prices when there’s a never-ending list of people who are in desperate need of homes and who are entitled to social housing in this country. We should be spending those billions of pounds on building genuinely affordable and social homes, then some might be able to afford to save for those deposits.”“The government will get away with having fewer genuinely affordable homes being built and it will merely exacerbate the existing terrible housing crisis,” Ward adds. “The only way to solve this crisis to make sure we build the right type of homes.“This is the biggest issue facing us in Islington, in London, in this country.”A MHCLG spokesperson said: “We are overhauling the planning system to give communities more control from the start of the planning process.“These changes to Permitted Development Rights will help support our high streets by removing eyesores and transforming unused buildings into much-needed new homes.”Related...Revealed: Families Crammed Into Rooms Little Bigger Than Parking SpacesHow Covid Has Made The UK's Bitter Housing Crisis Even Worse
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge
The Facebook Oversight Board, the quasi-judicial organization that Facebook set up to review tough moderation choices, announced today that its decision on former President Trump’s ban from Facebook and Instagram will arrive “in the coming weeks.” The decision, which was initially supposed to take 90 days, has been pushed back so the board can review the more than 9,000 comments it’s received about the case.
(2/2): The Board’s commitment to carefully reviewing all comments has extended the case timeline, in line with the Board’s bylaws. We will share more information soon.— Oversight Board (@OversightBoard) April 16, 2021
Facebook banned Trump from its platforms after the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol, with CEO Mark...
A judge ruled that Jeffrey Sabol, 51, "may again try to flee or otherwise attempt to prevent his prosecution from moving forward" if he were released.
Riot Blockchain announced on Monday that it produced 187 bitcoin in March, an over 80% increase versus last year's pre-halving results.
Cheney has emerged as one of the sternest critics of the former president, who has continued to repeat his baseless voter fraud claims.
Kildee appeared on "NBC Nightly News" alongside his therapist to discuss his reaction to the January 6 insurrection.
The Associated Press obtained an internal Pentagon document that detailed the call, which came after rioters had overrun the building.
Grady Douglas Owens, 21, from Florida, gave the police officer a concussion after he struck him with his skateboard on January 6.
"He has no idea how popular he is," former President Donald Trump said in a statement. "Run, Ron, Run!"
Christopher Joseph Quaglin was arrested Wednesday in connection to the Capitol riot. He is accused of assaulting multiple officers during the riot.
More than one defendant in January's Capitol riots has turned on the far-right Proud Boys, striking deals to help prosecutors build cases against its leaders.
Quaglin is accused of spraying a chemical irritant at officers who were trying to stop the rioters from entering the Capitol, court documents say.
Prime minister Boris Johnson has condemned violence that again broke out on the streets of Northern Ireland, after a bus was hijacked and set on fire.The bus was set alight after being pelted with petrol bombs at the junction of Lanark Way and Shankill Road in west Belfast, the PSNI said.It was one of a number of incidents on Wednesday evening that took place on the peace line street that links the loyalist Shankill Road with the nationalist Springfield Road.Writing on Twitter, Johnson said: “I am deeply concerned by the scenes of violence in Northern Ireland, especially attacks on PSNI who are protecting the public and businesses, attacks on a bus driver and the assault of a journalist.“The way to resolve differences is through dialogue, not violence or criminality.”The wreckage of a Translink Metrobus on fire on the Shankill Road in Belfast during further unrest." src="https://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/606e2987250000254b1da5de.jpeg?ops=scalefit_630_noupscale" />It follows several nights of unrest in loyalist communities amid tensions over the Northern Ireland Protocol on Brexit and the PSNI’s handling of alleged coronavirus regulation breaches by Sinn Fein at the funeral of republican Bobby Storey.Stones were thrown at police while a press photographer was assaulted nearby during the course of their work on Wednesday evening.Later on Wednesday night, the gates of the peace line on Lanark Way were opened, leading to clashes between loyalists and nationalists.Social media footage captured petrol bombs being thrown from both sides of the wall.First minister Arlene Foster condemned the attacks on Twitter, saying: “There is no justification for violence. It is wrong and should stop.”She later added: “This is not protest. This is vandalism and attempted murder. These actions do not represent unionism or loyalism.“They are an embarrassment to Northern Ireland and only serve to take the focus off the real law breakers in Sinn Fein. My thoughts are with the bus driver.”Deputy first minister and Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill said: “Disgraceful scenes of criminality tonight including a potentially lethal attack on bus driver and assault on journalist.“Unequivocal condemnation needed and protests should be called off immediately – police need support not politicking.”Minister for Infrastructure Nichola Mallon described the attack on the bus as “sickening”.She said: “Those attacking their own communities and their own public services are achieving nothing and if this doesn’t stop now it is only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured or killed.“Tonight with deep regret Translink has had to suspended some services in Belfast due to ongoing disturbances.“Thankfully no one has been hurt in this incidence, but those responsible for this attack, and ongoing attacks on the police, need to stop and stop now.“I appeal for calm and call on those destroying their own communities and those fanning the flames to end this recklessness before someone is seriously hurt or killed.”Translink chief executive Chris Conway condemned the attack on the company’s staff member.He said: “Thankfully, all passengers got off the bus safely before the attack occurred. My thoughts are with the driver who is badly shaken but thankfully unhurt, he is being supported by colleagues.“We are working closely with the PSNI and services have been suspended in this area and in other parts of the city. They will remain withdrawn until it is safe to reinstate them.“Our staff have been working on the frontline throughout the Covid-19 pandemic to keep essential services operating and to keep communities connected, and this attack is reprehensible.”SDLP MP Claire Hanna also criticised the attack on the photographer, tweeting: “We’re told by the apologists that these protests & riots are borne of frustration about not being listened to, but an excellent photo journalist is attacked while trying to capture the story.”Police are advising members of the public to avoid these areas.“We would appeal to those with influence in the area to use it to help restore calm,” a PSNI statement said.Videos circulating online show a bus being pelted with petrol bombs and having its windows smashed where a crowd of people had gathered.Translink Metro said it had withdrawn all services into the area until further notice due to road closures, as well as services in east Belfast.A crowd of around 500 people, most of them adults, gathered on the corner of the junction at Lanark Way as events unfolded.Further down the road a bonfire was lit where a crowd of approximately 100 people, mostly young, were assembled.The Stormont Assembly is set to be recalled on Thursday morning for an emergency debate following days of violence.Riots and attacks on police have taken place repeatedly throughout the last week and have now resumed after a relative lull on Tuesday.Police were attacked during another night of violence in a number of loyalist areas on Monday.Nine officers were injured in Ballymena, taking to 41 the number injured in disorder across Northern Ireland since last Friday night.The most intense clashes on Monday were witnessed in Ballymena, when nine riot police officers were injured after they intervened in an unlawful march of loyalists through the town.During the unrest, debris, including a wheelie bin, was thrown onto the M2 motorway, forcing its closure.Disorder also flared in parts of Carrickfergus, Newtownabbey and Londonderry on Monday, with petrol bombs and other missiles thrown at officers.Children as young as 12 have been involved in some of the violence that has been witnessed in recent days.Cars, a JCB digger, a phone box and bins were set alight in the Waterside area of Londonderry on Monday.Police said that a brick was thrown at a taxi, which was carrying a passenger at the time, on the Limavady Road.The cause of the unrest has been attributed to frustration over a decision not to prosecute members of Sinn Fein over alleged coronavirus regulation breaches at the funeral of republican Bobby Storey.Opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol and drugs seizures against a dissident faction of the UDA in south-east Antrim have also been blamed.
Carlson has sought to portray the response to the Capitol riot as a bid to persecute ordinary conservatives.
The 1991 made-for-TV film features glorious low budget special effects and shonky costumes.
You may think you’re familiar with The Lord of the Rings, but nothing can quite prepare you for an adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic fantasy text made in the Soviet Union.
The made-for-TV film first aired on Leningrad Television in 1991 and was thought to be lost to time, as first reported by The Guardian. But the station’s successor, 5TV, recently unearthed a copy from its archives, and uploaded the entire work to YouTube in two parts.
Low budget special effects and Soviet mood music
With a running time of around 1 hour and 50 minutes, this adaptation focuses only on the first book of Tolkein’s trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, and is a riot of low-budget special effects, bizarre camera work, and Soviet mood music.
Lawyers for the civil rights organization brought the suit on behalf of Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi in February, following the Jan. 6 riot.
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TiMi Studios, the Tencent-owned developer of huge mobile hits Call of Duty: Mobile and the MOBA Honor of Kings, earned a staggering $10 billion in revenue in 2020, according to an April 1st Reuters report.
Reuters’ article says those earnings make TiMi the “world’s largest developer,” according to its sources. While it’s unclear exactly what metric that is defining, it’s a undoubtably a huge number. For comparison, Activision Blizzard (which publishes the Call of Duty franchise) posted 2020 revenues of $8.09 billion, nearly $2 billion less than TiMi’s reported $10 billion.
TiMi’s games are some of the biggest in the world
While TiMi might not be a household name, its games are some of the biggest in the world. Call of Duty: Mobile...
Authors and academics cited in the controversial government-backed review on racial disparity have dismissed the suggestion they “participated” in the report. The analysis by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, published on Wednesday, drew criticism for rejecting the term “institutional racism” – saying it should not be used as a “catch-all” phrase for any “micro-aggression”.At the top of the report’s Appendix D: Stakeholders list of organisations and individuals, the commission said it had “heard evidence from many during the course of its work” and “would like to thank the following for their participation”.Author SI Martin, who is black, said he only discovered his name was in the appendix, under a sub-heading entitled “Academics and individuals”, on Thursday morning and claimed the commission had not contacted him.Asked for his reaction, he told the PA news agency: “Initially, hilarity. Because of all of the names that could have appeared on that document attesting to its credibility, mine would have been the least.“If they’d known the first thing about me I’d have been the last person chosen.”He said that “publicly and in writing, in every public arena, all of my ideas and sentiment are diametrically opposed to practically everything in that document”.“Those who know me, those who know anything about me, would understand the ridiculousness of my name being associated with that,” he added.It is understood that Martin was named in error and will be removed from the acknowledgements.Asked if he had had any contact from the commission, Martin said: “No, absolutely not ever in any way, shape or form.”Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at the University of Oxford, after seeing his name on the list, told the Telegraph: “Totally news to me. I never spoke to them… I did support this office and had a call with them, but that is not the report – it is different.”The report also said the commission requested new research from sources, including Veena Raleigh and Shilpa Ross from the King’s Fund.But the think tank said “that’s not strictly true”, clarifying that the work sent to the commission had already been carried out.Another author and historian took to Twitter on Thursday to highlight his “horror” at being named in the same section of the report, asking: “I wonder how many others were consulted without their knowledge?”Stephen Bourne, who has written about black British history for 30 years, told PA he was contacted by recently departed No 10 adviser Samuel Kasumu last June and asked if he would take part in a meeting with other historians of black Britain.He later accepted an invitation to Downing Street in October but this “didn’t say anything about a commission”.“I knew nothing about this commission, knew nothing about a report, they didn’t even mention historians, but I just assumed that is what it would be,” he added.Bourne was subsequently asked to deliver a presentation to a group of people on Zoom, without being introduced to them.He was later “gobsmacked” to learn of their commission roles after looking up their names online.Bourne said he contacted Kasumu and “read him the riot act”, saying it was “unprofessional and discourteous” to lead him to believe he was attending a roundtable discussion when it was for the commission.He said he had been “misled” and felt “very disappointed and very upset” that his name was “attached to a report as a stakeholder when I didn’t have anything to do with it and I don’t actually agree with the report”.“The report is flawed and I’m not happy with the report,” he added.A spokesperson for commission said: “Stephen Bourne participated in a 10 Downing Street event for Black History Month, in which he made a valuable contribution about the curriculum which influenced the thinking of the commissioners on the subject.“We thanked him as a courtesy.”On Wednesday, HuffPost UK reported how the review was criticised for its “cynical manipulation” of data and making “disingenuous” claims not borne out by reality.Related...Far-Right Will Use Race Report ‘As A Cover’ For Racism, Campaigners WarnBoris Johnson's Most Senior Black Adviser Samuel Kasumu Quits'Cynical Manipulation': Racial Disparity Review Condemned For 'Misusing' Data