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Letters: Spiralling service charge rises have turned my dream of owning a home into a nightmare

A soaring service charge has turned what was supposed to be a dream opportunity to own a home into a poverty trap

Image: Unsplash/Big Issue composite

Big Issue readers react to articles on Indigenous children, service charge rises, Jamie Oliver and the climate change emergency.

Service charge nightmare

I am writing to you on behalf of the residents of Clarion shared ownership, The Courtyard, Circus Street, Brighton. We live in a newly built apartment block in Brighton. The block consists of a mixture of flats that are privately owned, privately rented and shared ownership. Many of us who live here bought property through ‘affordable housing’ schemes that should have in theory enabled us to get on the housing ladder. I am a teacher and a single parent. Living in Brighton is increasingly hard, even on a relatively good wage. Purchasing my property through a shared ownership scheme enabled me to be able to afford a home for myself and my son that I probably would have not been able to afford in other circumstances. 

However, in the short space of time that I have lived here both myself and my fellow residents have been shocked to discover that Clarion PLC (our landlord and the leaseholder) and Savills management have levied increases to our service charge that range from between 140% to 170%. For some this meant our service charge has increased from £124 to £416 per month. For many of us, this is simply unaffordable. In addition, in the past month we have received notice that they require us to pay an additional backdated fee of £2,221 for the year 2022 to 2023, having ‘undercharged’ us.

Like my neighbours, I cannot afford these increases. What was meant to have been a lifesaver for me as a single parent to get on the housing ladder and build an investment for the future, is turning into a nightmare. We are trapped. Some neighbours have investigated putting their flats up for sale, but found that no provider would offer a mortgage to new owners because the service charge is so high.

We have had meetings with executives from Clarion and Savills to ask for an explanation and justification of these huge charges. We have yet to receive clarity about the increases. So we are at our wits end. It seems so unjust that giant corporations like Clarion and Savills can unilaterally, during a cost of living crisis, supercharge an increase to these unaffordable levels.

Michelle Furber

Colonial crimes

Warwick Thornton is quite right. The origin of the ways Indigenous children were treated in Canada and Australia can be found in the Parliamentary Select Committee on Aboriginal Tribes set up for the following: 

“To consider what measures ought to be adopted with regard to the native inhabitants of countries where British settlements are made, and to the neighbouring tribes, in order to secure to them the due observance of justice and the protection of their rights; to promote the spread of civilisation among them and to lead them to the peaceful and voluntary reception of the Christian religion.”

The evidence given to this select committee amounted to clear cultural imperialism which went on to inform many other aspects of the British Empire, not just the treatment of Indigenous children.

John R Hudson

Pan for gold

I do so enjoy and am challenged by the magazine. Jamie Oliver’s pan pizza is great and I keep the recipes. So many interesting articles. I read cover to cover. Thanks for putting the answer to the Sudoku but could I suggest the answers are put in the same issue please, on the next page or upside down on the same page.

Helen Smiley 

Take the wheel

Everyone is talking about solar, wind farms and nuclear power to create electricity; surely we are all forgetting the simplest and cheapest form available.

There is a silver bullet for the answer to the climate change emergency: I believe we could utilise the power of the thousands of streams and rivers we are blessed with in this country. Surely it is not beyond the wit of man to design small generators which could be driven by water driving a paddle wheel, this would run 24 hours a day 365 days a year. Cost should be low enough for local authorities and organisations to handle, it could provide cheap, or even cost-free energy to the local population. It is also the easiest to connect to the National Grid.

I have been trying to get someone to listen since 1962.

Tony B

One to watch

I have just been to see the film Someone’s Daughter, Someone’s Son in Poole after seeing it featured in the Big Issue. It should be required viewing for all politicians, both national and local. Unfortunately the cinema was only a third full and all those who were there were probably already aware of and engaged in the issue. Effectively it was preaching to the converted. I am not ashamed to say we shed a few tears and came out at the end feeling angry and a bit helpless because although the film tried to end on a positive note, I am realistic (and old) enough to know the issue probably won’t (even though it can) be solved. I would highly recommend the film to all your readers. 

Heather Bland

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