Time to buy up and sell out?

Dear Auntie, All my mates talk about these days is property, property, property. They're buying up places in areas that are up and coming with plans to sell them on when the price is right. They keep harassing me to do the same, saying it's a necessary 'investment' because by the time I retire there will be no state pensions left. While the idea of no longer paying fat-cat landlords is tempting, homeowning goes against all my political principles: driving up house prices hits the poor the hardest. So should I continue to prop up the landowning class or buy up and sell out? Yours, Property is Theft

October 1, 2004 · 2 min read

Dear Property is Theft,

If I was your financial adviser, I would have only one piece of advice: if you earn a good wage from a secure job, buy, buy, buy. But if your commitment to what we used to call socialism is real, there are other ways.

You could join or form a local campaign to defend council housing (www.defendcouncilhousing.org.uk): the more people involved, the more chance of reversing government’s commitment to scrapping local authority provision.

But if your faith in local democracy is the same as mine, then how about squatting? There are more than 300,000 empty houses and thousands of hectares of disused business property to choose from. Consult the Advisory Service for Squatters.

If direct action sounds too much like hard work, go cooperative. You can either join an existing housing co-op and pay dirt-cheap rent in return for helping to run and maintain the scheme.

Or you can form your own by buying a house with a bunch of mates, getting a mortgage and loan from an ethical building society or bank like Triodos or the Ecology Building Society and forming a limited company, which then pays the bank. If it all goes pear-shaped and the company folds, you can walk away having only lost your lump sum (and your mates).



The crack pipe of peace

Dear Auntie _ War, famine, economic depression and global warming - the idea that 'another world is possible' seems remoter than ever. Will we ever have a just and peaceful world? _ Desperate for peace, Preston

Learning by number

Dear Auntie _ At one of the Gaza protests in London, Stop the War put the number of protesters at around 100,000 but the police insisted it was only 20,000. Can Auntie reassure me that the Met has a scientific methodology for estimating crowd numbers? _ Numberless in London

No hope

Dear Auntie, All my left-wing friends seem to be overjoyed about Obama winning the US election, holding real hope that he will bring change, that he'll stop the wars, and that he'll somehow make America all cuddly and nice. But haven't we been here before? I'm getting flashbacks to the expectations people had of politicians like Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, and how quickly they betrayed us. Is it terrible that I think Obama will be just more of the same? Hopeless, London


Both feet not in the grave

Dear Auntie, Having reached 50, I've become invisible. It's the only explanation of why people look right through me. I'm ignored in shops and at bus stops; and getting served at the bar is an endurance test, as men and younger women always take priority. I have a lifetime of experience as an activist, but these days there's always a 'Darren' or 'Ryan' whose opinion matters more. I'd go as far as saying they don't even hear me speak! It seems white hair and wrinkles are taken as an early indication of Alzheimer's. But I'm not ready to go gently into the night and as Auntie looks of a similar age, does she have any advice? The invisible woman, London

Do what I say, not what I inhale

Dear Auntie, _ My daughter is starting to ask awkward questions such as 'Mum, did you take drugs when you were young?' I don't want to lie but I don't want her to venture down the same route. What do I tell her? _ Amy in London

Nice smelling poo

Dear Auntie, _ I'm a vegetarian who is fed up having to justify why I don't eat anything with a face on it. And it's the environmentalists who are also meat eaters who seem the most personally affronted by my choices. Do you have any suggestions how I can deal with this? _ Chickpea not chicken lover, Totnes