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8 February 2023

Letter of the week: Reasons to stay put

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By New Statesman

Will Dunn’s cover story (“The end of the housing delusion”, 3 February) made uncomfortable reading for me. I’m a member of the boomer generation who, through no skill of my own, has become a near millionaire since my first house purchase. A stable job and a final salary pension were the basis of this unearned and essentially untaxed wealth. I know the freehold housing market is like a giant quasi-Ponzi scheme so why don’t I, a single “last time buyer”, leave my modest three-bed terrace and help alleviate the housing blockage?

There are three reasons. My 1880s property is well-built compared to the modern, jerry-built horrors of today. I have invested a lot of money in it and it is spacious and environmentally sound. Second, I am not prepared to submit myself to the idiocy of England’s leasehold system, which seems a semi-organised criminal conspiracy. Third, the logistics of moving in the internet age are overwhelming.

Until a government is prepared to completely overhaul the housing “market” we will continue to consign millions to substandard, overpriced housing in an increasingly degraded and ecologically damaged environment.
Peter Boon, London E11

[See also: Boomers’ generosity to their kids is warping British society]

Thatcher’s housing legacy

Our mortgage in 1971 (Cover Story, 3 February) was with a building society which, because it lent from an account that stored the accumulated savings of its members, didn’t create money. Under this system between 1880 and 1980, private debt never exceeded 75 per cent of GDP. But in the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher’s government allowed the less-regulated banking sector into the mortgage market.

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Under Thatcher’s policy both household and corporate debt took off. By 2007, private debt was around 197 per cent of GDP, still split roughly 50:50 between households and corporations. As Steve Keen suggests, the maximum that lenders can provide should be limited to some multiple of a property’s actual or imputed rental income. Such a rule would break the reinforcing cycle between debt and house prices that has given us globally overvalued housing and overindebted households.
David Murray, Wallington, Surrey

The introduction of Right to Buy by the Thatcher government undermined the whole basis of social housing. I was the one opposition voice on Surrey Heath Council when it became one of the first to sell every house. In the debate it was promised that the housing association set-up would be “Surrey Heath”, but it was in time acquired by a housing authority in the north of England. Out went its central office and with it any reasonable tenant access.

When inquiries are made about joining the social housing waiting list the advice is not to bother as the list is endless.
Murray Rowlands, Surrey Heath

[See also: How Right to Buy fuelled the housing crisis]

Ukraine endgame

Two positive responses to Andrew Marr’s gloomy prognostications about the Ukraine war (Politics, 3 February). First, partition may not be a disastrous outcome, as an approach that has settled many conflicts where there is an obvious ethnic, language and cultural divide in the land being fought over.

Second, an enforced period of reduced consumption in the next ten years may be for the good of life on Earth if it contributes to the huge cuts in greenhouse gas emissions needed this decade to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
Stan Rosenthal, West Sussex

The Ukraine war is developing into a war of attrition with, apparently, all the winning cards on Putin’s side. Dribs and drabs are a waste of time, money and lives. The West should be sending more tanks as quickly as possible and fighter jets. Putin is not playing by any rules, except to win, sending in overwhelming force as cannon fodder. There is no point in allowing this cruel war to drag on. The Ukrainians are doing their best, they need our full support.
Rosanne Bostock, Oxford

[See also: Andrew Marr: “The war in Ukraine will go on for years – and so will its consequences for Britain”]

Understanding Germany

I have written before in praise of Jeremy Cliffe’s insight into Germany, which is often greater than anything in its domestic media. Now his expertise has been added to with Wolfgang Münchau (Lateral View, 3 February), who seems to be a lot freer writing about Germany in these pages.

This is coming from a resident of Germany. The country seems to be stuck in a weird version of the past, one symptom of which is the newsreaders on state broadcaster ARD persisting in speaking of England when they mean the UK.
Michael Heinze, Düsseldorf

[See also: Divisions over Ukraine are exposing the incoherence of German foreign policy]

The first cut was the deepest

So, Rod Stewart feels betrayed by the Conservatives (Newsmaker, 3 February). This individual who, Rachel Cunliffe writes, is “with” an older generation afraid of the collapse of public services, was described thus by the brilliant Greil Marcus in the Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll. “Rarely has a singer had as full and unique a talent as Rod Stewart; rarely has anyone betrayed his talent so completely. Once the most compassionate presence in music, he has become a bilious self-parody… parading his riches, his fame and his smugness.” 

His Every Picture Tells A Story album is a masterpiece which, as Marcus says, “can hold its ground with any rock ‘n’ roll record ever made”. This, rather than the rich poser in your photo, is what will help put spirit into the afflicted, as it bores down into how things for ordinary people really are.
Jerry Peyton, Edinburgh

The gun club

I read Sarah Churchwell’s review (“America’s Gun Delusion”, 27 January) with interest. In the 1960s I spent several weeks sharing a seventh-floor flat in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. One evening the four of us were watching television when the door opened (rather, it was forced so that it fell flat on the floor), and a large male entered. Not even glancing at us, he unplugged the television and carried it out. As he left he said: “Anyone comes after me or calls the cops, and you’re all dead.”

The next morning I was at a nearby gun shop. I bequeathed the purchase to my co-lodgers when I returned to England.
Tim Symonds, Burwash, East Sussex

Beggars belief

Oh no, another “begs the question” for raises the question (Correspondence, 3 February). If you “reserve the right to edit letters”, then correcting wrong usage should be part of that editing.
Allan Howard, Kings Bromley, Staffordshire

We reserve the right to edit letters

[See also: Why the US gun lobby has a fatal grip on American politics]

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This article appears in the 08 Feb 2023 issue of the New Statesman, Silent Sunak