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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - February 4, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta 24 THK LKTHtfllOOl HMALO Mondty, PMHIMry Empty lower A controversial monument Empty office tower enrages homeless Britains By PETER C. STUART The Christian Science Monitor LONDON, England For 10 years the concrete-and- glass slab has thrust its 33 stories into the London sky unrented, unoccupied, but climbing in value at million to million a year. Physically and figuratively the building has been a monument to property speculation. But a few days ago the deserted monolith suddenly came alive. The vacant windows leered with irreverent signs: "Homes Not Offices" and "Occupied by the People." Centre Point, the empty office tower dominating the intersection of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street like a gravestone, was inhabited for the first time since built by '80 defiant but disciplined squat- ters. "We are concerned about ordinary people wanting homes to live explained a spokesman for the not-so- ordinary band of lawyers, teachers, labor union leaders, left-wing demonstrators, and homeless families squatting inside. Judging by the din of car horns that sometimes drowned out his words if you're with appealed toe protest aroused wide sympathy among characteristically law abiding Londoners. "This said a young physician, son in hand, who joined supporters at a rally Jan. 20, "represents the clearest symbol of what's wrong with England today: putting profits before human needs." The squatters departed voluntarily after the rally. But behind them they leave the issue of property speculation looming as large on the British political skyline as an empty skyscraper. At a time when inflation, a slumping stock market, and a foreign-trade deficit are undermining other sources of wealth, the developers of property on this space-short island are the new British tycoons. So lucrative is some commercial, property that a few new but fast-fading office buildings, such as Centre Point, continue to appreciate in value without tenants to pay the sky-high rents. Centre Point's ghostly companions include, at last reckoning, a 12-floor glassy tower near Paddington Station, vacant 11 years; a sleek, round complex near Centre Point unrented six years; a 22-floor block overlooking the River Thames empty five years. These soaring towers of vacant square footage rise all too conspicuously. For many Britons, in a country where average house prices climbed 12 per cent last year (47 per cent the previous an estimated persons iare left homeless every night. In London's tight housing market last year, government-subsidized home loans dropped by 40 per cent, while court actions over property possession in "stress areas" rose by 28 per cent. The growing pressure increasingly generates political rumblings. Two successive ministers in charge of housing in the Cabinet of Prime Minister Edward Heath have publicly criticized-Harry Hyams, owner of Centre Point and 42 other London buildings. And the normally pro- business cabinet proposes to slap an annual fine of 99 per cent of market value on property developments delays longer than four years. The opposition Labor Party's Socialists would go much further. They would flatly nationalize all "land re- quired for development." "Something is clearly the party's program last year said, "when over 10 million square feet of London office space stand empty at a time when over London families are on (public housing) waiting lists." Sears Announcement ta MT ftft, 2, 1174 M Mt to Sears Baby Week Ends Saturday, Feb. tabte a-Combination bath and dressing table at a super low price. Foam-padded top, safety belt. 2 large storage shelves, towel bar. Made in Canada. Not As Illustrated Baby's crib Deluxe baby walker b-Special purchase allows this low price. 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