Editor’s comment: Our readers’ open letter on housing

Housing minister Rishi Sunak visited the Emirates where Barbara and Thomas Grover are Arsenal season

Housing minister Rishi Sunak visited the Emirates where Barbara and Thomas Grover are Arsenal season ticket holders. Picture: LUCAS CUMISKEY - Credit: Archant

When we were given a few hours’ notice that housing minister Rishi Sunak would be visiting the Emirates, we decided to have a quick whip around on Twitter to gather some questions for him.

Sadly, in the end, we didn’t get the chance to put them to him – so I thought I’d donate my column this week to the best questions as a sort of open letter. We’ll be sending this to him, and inviting him or a colleague to respond.

Two people suggested asking whether Mr Sunak supported rent controls. A third responded: “Why, as a teacher who works metres from the Emirates, can I not afford to live in the same borough as I teach?”

One reader asked: “How many MPs are involved in housing commercially and therefore have a vested interest in keeping the housing market as it currently stands and not having supply at a level to meet demand in a way that enriches them further (eg selling off land cheaply to eg [developer] Lendlease etc)?”

Someone else asked why council tax bands hadn’t been revisited since 1991. Another wrote: “When will they stop subsidising the big builders through Help to Buy and selling off state-owned land cheaply for overseas investors etc and have policy and action that will resolve our housing shortage, eg bringing back disused properties for UK residents?”

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Some of the issues raised were fairly general in scope. But one concerned the flats behind Pentonville Prison, two dozen of which have lain unused for more than 25 years: why are they still empty?

They’re part of the Ministry of Justice’s estate, but we asked that department about them two years ago and got nothing back. The Gazette understands they’re mostly four-bed and could make a small but significant dent in the waiting list. Come on, minister – give your counterparts a kick and get a result for Islington.

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