It's not sensible to abandon tenancies

PUBLISHED: 12:17 23 June 2006 | UPDATED: 21:57 28 May 2010

THE main arguments offered in support of council housing privatisation in last week s issue are misleading. For instance, the claim that only housing associations can access enough money for improvements needs explanation. Access means borrowing, at c

THE main arguments offered in support of council housing privatisation in last week's issue are misleading.

For instance, the claim that "only housing associations can access enough money" for improvements needs explanation. "Access" means borrowing, at commercial rates of interest, which will eventually have to be paid back from tenants' rent. That is the chief reason that housing association rents are higher than council rents.

It is incorrect to say "it is no longer true" that housing association tenants pay more than council tenants. The Housing Corporation's 'Guide to Local Rents 2005' shows that housing association rents are still over 10 per cent higher.

Government 'rent re-structuring' policy has caused the gap to narrow recently, but the policy ends in 2012. Housing associations are already complaining that the policy will create difficulties in meeting loan repayments. So when the policy ends in 2012 the flood-gates to rent rises are likely to open.

There would be very little control over such matters for tenants. Circle Anglia is a huge company, and tenants won't be able to affect its financial policies to any serious degree. For all its faults, council housing is democratically owned and controlled by the whole community, for the benefit of the community.

While past government policies have created financial difficulties for council housing, a recent announcement by the new 'Department for Communities and Local Government' suggests that extra resources will be made available for well-performing councils.

It would not be sensible at this point to abandon secure council tenancies for an uncertain future with a private social landlord, especially as such a decision would be irreversible.

JOHN MARAIS, Fortescue Road, Cambridge

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