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14 March 2016

A “cache” of 22,000 empty London homes (Report, 22 February) reinforces the case for a different solution to the housing crisis – the intensification of the use of space. As the author of Stone Age Economics, Marshall Sahlins, tells us, there are two ways to be wealthy – to own a lot or to need very little. Mechanisms are needed to bring all empty buildings, residential and commercial, back into use – converting from commercial to residential for the social good, rather than to feed the investment market in housing. And home-based work needs to be supported across the social spectrum. Leaving homes empty during the working day, and workplaces empty out of hours in the evening and at the weekend, is wasteful. BT reduced the size of its overall property portfolio by 50% through its flexible working policies, including 13,000-plus home-based employees, who are reported to be happier, healthier and more productive than their office-based colleagues. Developers, architects, financiers and politicians insist we need to build hundreds of thousands of new homes a year – but they would, wouldn’t they?

Dr Frances Holliss
Workhome Project, London Metropolitan University

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