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i Editor's Letter: "Affordable" and council housing

 

What waffle this week about "affordable" and council housing. Worst of all was the Housing Minister Grant Shapps. He said it's "blindingly obvious" that social housing in expensive places should be sold off to generate up to £4.5bn, which, if used for the purpose, could fund an extra 170,000 social homes. "Only a perverse kind of left-wing dogma" stopped local authorities implementing the plan, he added.

Nothing about this issue is "blindingly obvious". As someone who grew up on a council estate until my 20s, took advantage of the "right-to-buy" initiative and then sold on, I have lived this issue from all sides. I now reside in an area where middle-class "Nimbys" object to social housing because it contains people like… well, who exactly? Me?

We all know we need large-scale house-building. We also know not all the money raised would go to local authorities for the purpose. The Government simply would not allow it.

But why on earth should poorer people not be able to live in the nicer areas of our cities? The joy of life in culturally rich metropolises like London is that people of all backgrounds live alongside each other. This makes life richer. Removing the poor leads to ghettoisation and alienation. And to whose real benefit? The property developers and speculators.

Gentrification has clear benefits, but it comes at a cost to poor people excluded from their former communities. The only obvious thing in this very grey subject is that Mrs Thatcher was wrong when she said there is no such a thing as society. And society must include the poor, too.

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