Susie Rushton: A clean sweep that's pretty sinister

Urban Notebook

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It is deportation by any other name. The New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has come up with a scheme to reduce the number of homeless families in shelters by buying them one-way tickets back to (er, hopefully) charitable relatives that might live as far away as Orlando, Paris or even Johannesburg.

It is a policy surely designed not only to save cash but to primp the surface image of a city that relies on tourism. What it doesn't appear to be is a programme that addresses with any compassion the complicated causes of homelessness.

A handful of those homeless families removed from New York are reportedly grateful for their free ride from Bloomberg. But I find the idea of a broom that temporarily sweeps the destitute out of sight pretty sinister. Here's hoping that London's Mayor Boris Johnson doesn't borrow this bold and headline-grabbing scheme ahead of the Olympics.

Charles's presence is no help

Nigella Lawson's purchase of 12 identical dresses in a Notting Hill boutique this week ahead of a holiday in the Hamptons might look ludicrous. Nigella is a multi-millionaire, after all, and could buy whatever wondrous variety of clothing she fancied. Whether bulk-buying is sensible or horrendously boring is open to debate, but of one thing I am convinced. These were the actions of a woman under pressure to make her decisions quickly. And why? Outside, pacing the pavement and smoking, was her husband Charles Saatchi. Shopaholic he may be, but like 99 per cent of straight men, his presence on any clothes-buying mission is inauspicious.

Summer of the cockroach

I hope to God that estate agents don't hear about the tiny improvement in property prices. They need no encouragement. Last week, I dipped my toe into the sludgy waters of the capital's housing market when I picked up a sales list at a local estate agent.

I must have staggered visibly at what I read because the sales rep jumped out of his seat to offer words of advice. The more affordable flats on his own list were dismissed as "rubbish, awful, it looks terrible inside", or "not really a two-bed. Yes, that's what it says, but the second bedroom is about two metres square". One block of average-sized apartments, which I knew from cursory internet research to be selling for (relative) bargain prices at present, "are more like £500,000 now. Maybe back in January they would've been less".

In which alternate reality have property values been soaring for the past six months? Maybe it's a trifle ungenerous to compare estate agents to cockroaches but, truly, even the fallout from a global credit crisis can't squish the unsavoury ways of these critters.

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