LETTER : Housing policy falling down

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The Independent Online
IT IS undoubtedly true, as Christian Wolmar suggests ("There's more to homes than ownership", 9 July) that housing association accommodation in general caters only for the needs of the poorest tenants. The explanation, however, lies in the complexities of housing finance. Each scheme is required to be self-financing. The gap between the costs of construction plus current operating costs and the income generated by rents is covered by grant aid from central government. For some time, the level of grant aid has been so niggardly as to generate rent levels that only prospective tenants with housing benefit entitlement (ie those not liable to pay full rent) could afford.

Of course all public sector housing could be revitalised overnight if the Government lifted its arbitrary ban and allowed local authorities and, when relevant, housing companies to use capital receipts from the sale of assets, not least from housing stock sold under right-to-buy.

And if right-to-buy is worthy of extension to the voluntary sector, what moral constraints prevent the Government from extending it to tenants of private landlords?

Peter D Johnston

Bolton, Lancashire

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