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Tuesday 31 July 2007 Letters
Council housing
A way to solve the housing crisis or a means of social control?

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Responding to: Stop romanticising council housing, by James Heartfield

If James Heartfield had taken the time to read my book, Estates: an Intimate History, half-thoroughly, it would have been clear to him that I neither romanticise council housing nor feel nostalgic for it.

While I make a case for better social housing in the book, I state that many local authorities have made lousy managers of the housing they provide. 

I don’t care whether a house is owned, or rented from the council, a social landlord, or from a properly regulated private landlord - the crucial thing is that every tenure is regarded, in the eyes of government and public alike, as an equal and valuable component of the national housing asset.

Lynsey Hanley, UK

I went to a Defend Council Housing meeting some years ago, and at a meeting of fifty assorted lefties:

(1) Me and my pal Neil were the only two council tenants in the room;

(2) The most vociferous defenders of council housing lived in the better part of town (all members , interestingly, of the Ted Grant fan club);

(3) That I was planning at that time to “Right To Buy” my house at the time, due to the inability of the council to even replace the rotten wooden windows we had.

On my estate there were 300 houses and 100 flats, all built 1925 - 1930, cost approx £700 average each to build, and apart from a small grant from the Government of the time, paid for by 30-year 3½ per cent bonds. Fact. The rent when they first took tenants was 10 shillings (50p) weekly, and my last rent payment was £77.

The council working on an average of £10 weekly rent over the 82 years of ownership had netted over £40,000. Even at an average of £5 weekly rent that’s over £20,000. And they still have the capital of 11,000 council houses with an average value of £90,000. And I still had a white butler sink and a stone shelf larder in the year 2000.

And councils are surprised that tenants buy the houses.

Harry, UK


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