It all started at General Synod….
It all started when I was called to speak in a housing debate at the Church of England’s General Synod.
I wasn’t expecting to be called, but I took the opportunity to look at the issue from Cornwall’s particular perspective. The next thing I knew the press and TV got interested and I did a number of interviews, and it became something of an issue on social media too.
But like many media storms – even minor ones – attention quickly flagged and moved on to others things.
However Cornwall’s housing crisis isn’t going to go away so quickly, sadly. In many ways we face a perfect storm.
We’ve known for years there’s a been a problem, with Cornish towns and villages hollowed out at the centre by second homes and holiday homes. But it’s got much worse recently.
Now I’m hearing stories of people being given notice to quit their homes by landlords wanting to turn their properties into holiday lets, and command much higher prices as a result. That’s really distressing for the families concerned as they potentially face homelessness.
It’s a real problem for the NHS too: people employed to work in Cornwall can’t find anywhere to live leading to staff shortages at Treliske and elsewhere: small wonder they’ve declared a major incident. And of course house prices are rocketing too, making even the most basic homes unaffordable for many people.
Much of the problem, as some of our MPs have recognised, is that we have a largely unregulated housing market. There are things that can be done to damp it down, especially as far as second home purchase is concerned: there are levers to pull such as Stamp Duty and Council Tax rates – and I hope the Government will pull them.
But meanwhile Cornwall Council are having to house homeless single people in ‘pods’: small single temporary containers. It’s much better than nothing, but no one sees that as a long term solution.
That General Synod debate I spoke in was discussing a Church of England report that called for housing to be ‘sustainable, safe, stable, sociable and satisfying’. That’s what I long to see in housing in Cornwall. Sadly we seem to be a long way from that goal at the moment.