Labour and getting to grips with the housing crisis _ Letters _ Society _ The Guardian track housing benefit claim

A protest against haringey council on 3 july 2017. ‘labour’s proposed review on social housing must genuinely listen to residents and investigate how to prevent the predetermining of outcomes prevalent in many regeneration consultations,’ writes martin bell. Photograph: emerson utracik/rex/shutterstock

The news that kensington and chelsea council has terminated its contract with its housing manager ( report, 28 september) raises a question of wider relevance for anyone interested in tenant or workplace democracy or control. This was a tenant management organisation. The majority of the board (eight out of 15) were tenants directly elected by the membership. So how did it end up so comprehensively losing the confidence of tenants? Clearly, grenfell was an appalling failure of management and project control, but it was preceded by years of complaints that the TMO was not listening to and didn’t care about its tenants, despite being, at least nominally, controlled by its tenants.Track housing benefit claim

Were the tenant reps effectively marginalised on the board by councillors and management? Were they lied to? Were they undertrained and out of their depth in scrutinising major projects, and if so was that because of a deliberate management strategy, or incompetence? Or were the structures of accountability between tenant reps and the tenants themselves too weak to be meaningful, leaving them as a self-perpetuating, semi-detached elite? If the next labour government wants to expand social housing, and put control back in the hands of the people, this is surely a question that needs serious attention, with scrutiny focusing on systems and policies, not the easy scapegoating of individuals.

• george monbiot wants communities to “seize back control of the resources” like land ( don’t let the rich get even richer on the assets we all share, 27 september), but needs sharper tools.Track housing benefit claim britain could learn from denmark, where property taxes are split between land and buildings and go to the government, before redistribution. Taxes are also split in parts of pennsylvania, like pittsburgh, thus encouraging the regeneration of historic areas. So why not enable communities to set a local infrastructure financing trust (lift) to charge more valuable properties in growth areas for the costs of improving local infrastructure? There would be much more support for “sharing” in land value uplift than capturing it all if the funds were used for a common cause.

• the very welcome decision of the labour conference to cap rents does not go far enough. Steps should also be taken towards using the limited supply of UK land for the common good of every landless renter as well as those fortunate enough to own some of this small island as its value escalates.Track housing benefit claim landlords have been allowed to milk UK taxpayers with housing benefit by every UK government since the 1980s by increasing their rents in a housing market in short supply. In 1986-87 the total cost of housing benefit was £5bn. It is expected to reach £25bn this year. Meanwhile ever-rising rents have taken an ever-rising proportion of the living wage, whose intention is to provide a minimum income to cover a minimum basic needs for shelter, food, fuel, clothes, transport and other necessities.

Rather than cap rents after the crash 10 years ago, the government cut housing and council tax benefits. That is inevitably increasing the rents and so the evictions, homelessness and ill health of the poorest tenants, but failing to make a dent in the cost of housing benefit. Meanwhile, landlords are making huge second profits from the increasing, and unearned, value of their land due to the deregulations of the 1980s.Track housing benefit claim

• if jeremy corbyn is genuine about regeneration under a labour government being for the benefit of local people not private developers, then he must put an immediate freeze on the development plans of labour councils to assess whether they are in line with this promise. This could start with a stop being put on haringey council’s proposed property company deal with developer lendlease. This deal aims at economic and social change whereby decent homes, shops, a library, schools and community assets will be demolished to allow for the building of predominantly new private sale flats.

The proposed review on social housing must genuinely listen to residents and investigate how to prevent the predetermining of outcomes prevalent in many regeneration consultations. But that is long term. Mr corbyn must act immediately and locally to demonstrate his leadership on housing is truly going to deliver decent housing for all.Track housing benefit claim

• the glory of the saga of eigg ( the long read, 26 september) demonstrates in microcosm how a community can recover control of the land it sits on despite all manner of difficulties. The value of the land as it increases can then go properly towards the common good of all the people, not just who happens to be the owner at that time. This is a money tree. More and more people are demanding the taxation of land values to assist our strained revenues. I applaud this having worked for it for 70 years or so. But it is an error to call it a tax. Taxes are instinctively disliked, taking what people have earned. The beauty of collecting land value is that it is not earned and cannot rightly be owned by individuals. It is the natural product of the activities of all of us and therefore belongs to all of us. Will corbyn’s revived labour be radical enough to recover its belief in collecting as revenue the rise in land value?Track housing benefit claim it could be a winner. The revenue is certainly desperately needed for the good things promised in the manifesto and the land value of UK is a colossal figure.