Letters

Letters: There are so many long-term empty homes – are they the solution to UK's housing crisis?

Are parties ignoring an easy solution to our housing problems?

A row of council houses

Image: unsplash/gonzalo facello

Big Issue readers react to the housing crisis and our articles about prison libraries, funding for arts and Big Issue’s Blueprint for Change.

A housing solution

On 18 June BBC One’s Morning Live looked at what is being done to address the problem of the one million empty homes in the UK. The program looked at one charity in Leeds, LATCH (Leeds Action to Create Homes), which works with the local council to identify and purchase some of the 3,000 empty
homes in the area and renovate them for affordable rent. This also benefits the community by training and using unemployed people to give them construction skills which will make them more employable in the future.

Politicians from all parties talk about building more new homes – many of which will be unaffordable for first time buyers and lower-income renters, but they seldom mention the fact that there are all these long-term empty homes which could be bought up and renovated. Sadly, they never seem to put forward suggestions as to how government could speed up this process and support local authorities in this.

I think this would be a worthwhile topic for Big Issue to highlight and lobby politicians with during the run-up to the election. Also, it seems a worthwhile project for Big Issue Invest to look at – if this has not already been done.

K Ward, Somerset

The borrowers

Over the past 70 years, Labour has borrowed much less than the Conservatives and repaid more of the national debt. In fact, Conservative governments have not made an annual budget surplus since 1904. I should add that Labour are the only party to have achieved this, on four occasions in six years from 2000 to 2006.

When Labour lost power in 2010 the national debt stood at a high £800,000,000. In 2018 the Tories had doubled this. That was before Covid. Now, after 14 years of Conservative government, it is more than than three times the amount left by Labour. Why do the Tories have a reputation for being good with the economy? God alone knows.

Tony B, Axminster

Libraries give us power

Wonderful piece by Brontë Schiltz on prison libraries. It is so important for prisoners to socialise in a safe and friendly way and to improve their education.

I did some prison visits years ago and the young men I visited were literate but didn’t read much. One gave me three illuminated scrolls, two of which were done by a man who had achieved A level art. All three scrolls are well-crafted and beautiful and they are displayed in my home.

Libraries are vital everywhere, but perhaps particularly in environments where there is little opportunity for education. Mr Smith is to be congratulated on his valuable and productive work.

Juliet Chaplin, Sutton

Housing lease of mind

I noticed in your requests to the next government, you did not include leasehold reform under ‘Housing’ from the paltry 125 standard leases to the full effective ownership of 990 years PROMISED by Michael Gove until the Tories not once, but twice reneged on this promise. Properties with less than 80 years on a lease cannot secure a mortgage, so your investment loses a huge amount of value. Please also demand a cap on these service charge companies who charge what they like, aren’t required to provide proof and most of the time do nothing.

@Harriet Sadleir

Use your vote

It’s worrying how low election voting turnouts are in the Western democracies. We are fed up with politicians in general, but we must keep voting, concentrating on the individual rather than the party. The 80th D-Day anniversary commemorations must stir us to at least go and vote, even if we put ‘none of the above’.

Steve Brennan, West Yorkshire

Reading between the lines

I love books and I love reading, but I am very aware that this is in many ways a real luxury. Many people in this country and around the world are struggling with many different issues, debt, climate change, housing, austerity, war and conflict, to name just a few.

It seems grotesque that books and our enjoyment of books should be at the cost of other people’s safety and security. As Jane Graham rightly points out [Do our festivals have a future?, Issue 1619] these are difficult times for book festivals, but they are nowhere near the difficulties experienced by Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, or those people living on the front lines of climate chaos.

Maybe it is time for us to finally realise that we are all interconnected – far more than we may like to think. While many companies will try to deny their role in what is happening in Gaza and the West Bank, or their involvement in climate change, maybe this is a good opportunity for them to think again about what they want to invest their clients’ money in. Just a thought.

Kate Taylor, South Gloucestershire

Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about this? Get in touch and tell us moreBig Issue exists to give homeless and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income. To support our work buy a copy of the magazine or get the app from the App Store or Google Play.

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