Letter: Housing reform

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The Independent Culture
Sir: You say that housing benefit is "a prime target of the reformer's knife ... but doing anything about the problem has proved much more difficult than identifying it" (leading article, 6 December).

The minister for housing might find a trip round the property auction pre-inspection circuit, enlivened by the expert company of the prospective bidders, an enlightening experience.

Advertised in the auction catalogue in terms like "suit DSS tenants", the flats are often repossessed former "right to buy" council units which have been stripped by their unfortunate ex-owners of everything movable, including all electrical and plumbing fittings.

The new landlord buys the flat for a song, refits it for even less, and can then let this erstwhile council flat to another unfortunate occupier, while collecting an extortionate rent with no risk of default. The taxpayer foots the bill.

How about legislation to permit the minister to issue blanket compulsory purchase proceedings on all such properties, on the ground that they are unfit for human habitation, and then to allow councils to sell them on to suitable housing associations for repair? The renovation works would properly done, and the final cost to the public sector greatly reduced.

PETER D BROWN

London N1

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