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Giving social housing a profitable edge

Letters

I would like to reply to the review of my book The Housing Battlefield (AJ 1.4.04).

To quote from the review: 'The book reads as though the thread of the argument has been ruthlessly stripped out.' Its first seven chapters are a survey of housing as it was reported from 1961 to 1997, mostly in the lay press, with emphasis on the collapse of the housing market in the early 1990s.

The conclusion contains proposals for dealing with some of the problems identified in these chapters. They relate to the four main objectives in the Review of Housing Supply by Kate Barker of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee:

improving affordability in the market sector; a more stable housing market; location of housing supply that supports economic development; an adequate supply of publicly funded social housing.

'What remains is a strong taste of pessimism, ' and 'he does seem to want to convey an impression of decadence in the way society is managed.' In 1968, Enoch Powell was ejected from the shadow cabinet for warning of racial conflict.

Now the government has warned that London could become a target for terrorists.

This could be seen as decline. If an attack were to happen that ignited sustained racial conflict, it would look like decadence.

The chapter about the inner cities is concerned with their people and the forces shaping their lives that might create disaffection.

Architects and planners are well placed to reduce the risk of conflict.With their responsibility for the physical fabric of the inner cities, they can keep in mind the opportunities for employment and self-employment of ethnic minorities.

They can also improve the prospects of home ownership for people on low incomes by giving priority to checking house price inflation.

The key proposal in the book - not mentioned in the review - is that social housing should be provided for all income groups, so that it can develop from a loss-making to a profitable activity providing funds for public works, such as new parkland and helping to stabilise the housing market by providing employment.

The last paragraph in the review misquotes me. 'The author advocates an institute for the study of decline and how to manage it.' That should be 'how to reverse it.' The reviewer also doubted whether an old man had been found under Waterloo Bridge on a freezing night burning his trousers to keep warm.

This was reported in The Times of 14.1.87.

Peter Hutchinson London SW15

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