LETTER:Why the Government paid pounds 150,000 per new 'council' house

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The Independent Online
THE pounds 150,000 spent on each new home in the Waltham Forest Housing Action Trust was made available by a government desperate to make an unpopular policy appear workable ("This is a council estate ...", 7 January; Letters, 14 January).

Housing Action Trusts (HATs) were intended to take council houses away from councils, but you are wrong to suggest the intention was then to "hand them to the tenants". Quite the reverse; without a ballot seeking residents' consent, the housing would be given to a board of businessmen whose task it would be to "do up and sell off" at the highest prices.

Councils would have been unable to afford to buy the properties back, and tenants would have been displaced to make room for people who could afford to buy the improved properties. So ill-conceived and unpopular was this policy that all Nicholas Ridley's original, imposed HAT estates failed in the development stage or were rejected by angry residents.

Waltham Forest have fought hard to ensure that their HAT would be on their terms. The Government was willing to give them more than pounds 170m for the programme to "prove" that the HAT principle was still viable.

Peter Marcus

London N10