Few people have a detailed grasp of how housing finance works in the UK, across the private market and social housing. My friend David Garnett, who has died aged 77, was not only one of these but had the skill to make a complex subject accessible to students.
He was born in Edinburgh, but brought up in Denham, Buckinghamshire. His father, Cecil Garnett, was deputy treasurer for the London Borough of Harrow and his mother, Ivy (nee Glyde), a secretary at the local boys’ home.
David was a late starter. He failed his 11-plus, but went to grammar school in High Wycombe aged 13. He then spectacularly failed his O-levels, having spent his time setting up the school magazine, Scandal. After a building-trade apprenticeship and studying for A-levels at evening classes, he went to Dudley College of Education, where he trained as a teacher and did part one of his BSc in economics (which he finished off at Regent Street Polytechnic, now the University of Westminster), and met his future wife, Julia Hedgeland. They married in 1966.
His first teaching job on leaving college was at Braintree College of Further Education. He moved to Bristol Polytechnic (now the University of the West of England) in 1971 and was soon involved in developing a degree in housing, which at the time was one of only two in England. A joint postgraduate degree in housing was also developed with Bristol University, where David did his PhD.
Colleagues and ex-students describe David as a dedicated and inspirational teacher. He supported the courses in many ways beyond his teaching – for example by inviting students to play snooker and exchange ideas at his home in Bristol. Later they would go to his cottage overlooking the Wye Valley - he liked to say it had the lavatory with the best view in Gloucestershire. Viewing himself primarily as a teacher, David wrote textbooks. The first, Housing Finance, written with Barbara Reid in 1990, became a standard text. By 2005 when the third edition emerged, it had sold thousands of copies. Later he wrote the A-Z of Housing (published in 2005). He also indulged his lifelong passion for words by writing doggerel and rhyming verse.
Outside teaching, David was dedicated to housing and charitable work. He was a founding board member, and for several years chair, of the Two Rivers housing association, set up to take over Forest of Dean’s council housing in 2003. Among other innovations he set up a mentoring group for apprentices, sharing his own experience with them. Involvement in running a housing association sparked an interest in rational thinking and coherent decision-making, which culminated in him writing his last book, Language, Lies & Irrational Thinking, A Defence of Reason in an Unreasoning World, which was published in March this year by his own company, Leaping Frog.
David’s energy, infectious humour, self-deprecation and kindness made him a stimulating companion and he was a loyal friend to many.
He is survived by Julia, who continues to run the charity, the Garnett Foundation, which David and she set up to enhance literacy and improve living conditions for those in need at home and abroad.