Is Amandan Aibreain a modern day Peter Rachman?

by Pseud O'Nym


The inevitable doesn’t just happen. It only happens to be inevitable when one is able look back and correctly assess and interpret the conditions that allowed it to happen. Then, and only then, does it become inevitable. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, because it allows us to make the same mistakes, except now they’re re-packaged so they seem something new and modern. As H. L. Mencken observed “ No-one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”

The housing market in London, were, if it was house, be condemned. Actually, no it wouldn’t. The house would be bought by a property developer, knocked down and in it’s place would go shiny new flats to be bought by foreign investors. As Lex Luthor notes in ‘Superman Returns’ “ They ain’t building any more land” (Which isn’t strictly true. Ask the Dutch.) But the point still stands, land is at a premium, demand for housing far outstrips supply, so much so that in increasingly desperate times, people will do increasingly desperate things.

So it comes as nary a surprise to learn of a Harry Potter-esque scenario, whereby a bed under some stairs was offered up for the bargain price of £500 a month. Mind you it was in Clapham. Or that people are sharing bedroom space with complete strangers because the rent for a single occupancy room is so high. Even a room with a bunk bed is called a ’twin room’. At £295 per person per month. Communal living is making a comeback as young professionals seek to negate the prohibitive cost of living in London like a rabbit in a hutch.

Barnet House, an 11-storey office building, could be converted into 254 studio flats, if an application by building leaseholder Meadow Residential is approved by the council.

Around 95 per cent of them would be smaller than the national minimum space standards of 37sqm, with the smallest being around 16sqm.

That is around 40 per cent smaller than the 28 sqm average Travelodge room


So, therefore it comes as no surprise to learn that Amadan Aibreain has submitted plans for a three new capsule hotel. Capsule hotels are nothing new. They first appeared, as I understand it, in Tokyo where space is at a premium and only the wealthy can afford those premiums. Essentially a capsule hotel offers a bed and amenities the more you pay, the better they are. So profitable have these been that it was it didn’t take long before one of these opened in London. The Z hotel boasts that;

 The building is a designer conversion of a Victorian townhouse, within a prominent block of mixed architectural styles. Inside, you find 106 rooms set over 8 floors. And it places you in Lower Belgrave Street, just off Buckingham Palace Road, and a stone’s throw from Victoria Station and the local theatres.

But the catch is that the Z hotel is only intended for short stays and ever the entrepreneur, Aibreain was quick to see a gap in the market. His ‘novel’ – some might say – ‘immoral’ idea, is that for the majority of the day the room is empty. Thinking that no one wants to pay for something they will not use, his bright idea is to offer rooms available to be rented in blocks of hours throughout the day. As he says “I was in a hotel in Bucharest years ago and it struck me that I only spent 8 hours of every day sleeping in the thing, the rest of the time it wasn’t used and it struck me, what if one could make better use of the time I wasn’t using it, making it more cost efficient”. There is no limit on the duration of the stay either.

Essentially, he sells use of each room in blocks of eight hours. Amazingly, it has proven to be a success because it seemingly gets around the problem of affording rent in London. He already has one in Canning Town with a further three planned for elsewhere in London. His hotels offer a place to sleep and not much else, but then I suppose with most things existing only in a digital format nowadays, the idea of having a large record collection, books, photos, videos is more a generational throwback to the past – all of these can be stored on a laptop or an external hard drive. So what is the compulsion to surround us with stuff? And more pertinently, can one afford the space to have it with you? I write this whilst looking with some irony at my own large record collection, proudly amassed over the years and it truly is a mass. Although it isn’t as much as a mass as I would have liked.

But to get back on topic Amadan Aibreain reminds me of nothing more than a modern day Peter Rachman, a landlord who came to notoriety in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s by renting out properties to the desperate that were squalid to but for an extortionate rent.