The Sun Makers
Ad-hoc table and chairs with purple carpet under a bridge in Paris.
This is something that I never thought that I would see in a major European city. I first encountered people living in make-shift tents and mini-houses under bridges in Kyoto. In Paris, it seemed that almost every bridge with space housed some temporary shelters, whether made from cardboard or actual tents:
Some of these are no doubt from travellers on a shoe-string budget, but increasingly there seem to be more and more people forced in to this way of life thanks to the insanity of housing and living costs. Paris in particular appears to have forgotten its own history, with the canal running up to the Bastille now lined by million-euro flats and a dock for boats – while just around the corner there are people sleeping in shelters under bridges.
This is a problem not specific to Paris, with other major cities including Barcelona not exempt, and this astonishing story from New York.
In the UK the response to a financial crises caused by run away property prices and casino banking has resulted in major cuts to benefits for the worst off while tax cuts are given to the highest earners and subsidies are provided for the housing market (“help to buy”). In London, since the crisis of 2008, most incomes have remained static while property costs have soared by an average of 30%.
Somewhere, just as the in the French Revolution, this disparity in income and prospects – largely delineated by those with and without significant capital assets – is going to flare up as a major social crisis. What was that again about history repeating?