“Theres a lot of building going on in Redruth, a lot of it is obviously needed and necessary otherwise it wouldn’t be happening”
So said a Redruth resident interviewed on the Today programme on Radio 4 yesterday.
So there we have it – developers only build houses because they are needed, otherwise why would they build them?
It just shows that people’s perceptions are not based on any analysis of the situation and you could ask why would they be. The majority of the population do not study housing policy or housing economics any more than they study fishing policy. Their views are based on what they pick up from the media together with simple beliefs about why things happen. They assume that there must be a logical reason for things to happen.
The facts however tell us something different.
Developers build houses because they can and do make a profit from them. Why do they build them in Cornwall then – well its got little to do with meeting local need as we don’t need that many houses, its largely to do with meeting the ‘needs’ of people who want to move to Cornwall for lifestyle reasons. A ‘need’ which is created and encouraged by a panoply of people and organisations who sell Cornwall as a place to live, work and play. It is rather sad yet understandable that the woman or man in the Redruth street is unaware of this and passively and unquestioningly accepts what is happening.
Much of the news about housing figures concentrates on the growing number of households in England who are renting in the private sector compared to the decline in the number of owner-occupiers. In 1991 there were 13 million owner-occupiers and 1.8 million private renters. There were also 4.4 million renting in the public sector.
Now the situation is rather different.
Although the number of owner-occupiers has risen to 14.8 million, private renters have risen to 4.7 million with public renters down to 4 million.
In percentage terms private renters have gone from 9% to 20% of the total.
There is much talk therefore of building more houses yet is this not a question of not more houses but what type of tenure is preferable?
Two issues stand out here:
1) the reduction in public sector housing numbers
2) the quality and nature of the private rented sector.
Should policymakers look at building more public sector housing or ensuring that private renters have a fair deal.
What issues could a Cornish housing policy include?
– a sustainable housing target
– a drastic revision of planning to give actual control to Cornwall including targets and planning for second homes/holiday homes
– a reduction in second home numbers
– a guarantee of good quality housing for all
– a high quality environment
– control over the private rented sector
– provision of affordable housing
– removal of the developer led planning policy
A set of policies for Cornwall.
Quite simply housing in Cornwall is a mess.
We build lots of houses, far more than we require to meet local need, yet at the same time fail to provide good housing for too many people.
We have a developer led planning system – developers want to build houses – they get built, but developers build houses to sell to the highest bidder not to meet housing need.
– houses are built to satisfy the demand for second homes, investment properties, and people moving to Cornwall for a lifestyle change.
House building and associated development is eating up our green areas and agricultural resources.
We are building lots more houses at higher densities and more flats.
People have less choice over where to live – few can live in the type of house or area they would like to.
We have a three tier housing market:
– the luxury end for the affluent whether to live in, use as holiday accommodation or second homes;
– the getting by sector for residents who can just about afford to buy or rent;
– the no choice/high cost sector – for those only able to rent or buy ‘cheaper’ properties – invariably in the less desirable areas.
An increasing number of people live in environmentally poor areas with little greenspace – particularly private garden, poor air quality, higher than appropriate noise levels and quality of life.
Housing costs are high whether buying or renting, leading to a loss of disposable income for many households.
Instead of providing better housing we are just providing more housing of the wrong type and in the wrong environment.
How do we get out of this mess?
As the dust settles on the local elections in Cornwall, the process is underway of forming a new administration for the Council. The Conservatives with 46 seats are front runners for leading the Council either as a minority administration or in coalition. The Liberal Democrats could of course continue in coaliton with the Independents – jointly having 67 Councillors. We shall see.
But what are the options for housing and planning policy?
Probably no change with a continuation of the business as usual approach – more houses and more houses!
But there is an alternative, starting with the four pledges of the Charter for Cornwall.
Although only 19 of the elected Councillors signed up to the four pledges of the Charter for Cornwall, it makes a good starting point for the future.
The four pledges were:
to do everything possible, including working with other councillors across party lines, to reduce Cornwall Council’s excessive housing targets.
to put local needs first, work to restore the supply of social rented housing and increase the proportion of good quality, genuinely affordable housing.
to seek to limit the growth of second homes and reduce the number of second homes in communities where levels are excessive.
to support the devolution of strategic planning to Cornwall and the replacement of a developer-led planning system by a truly democratic system that works for local residents.
Another four years of Cornwall Council fiddling while Cornwall burns is too depressing to contemplate. Another four years churning out these facebook posts is even more depressing. As I have other things to press on with, this will be the last post here from me. However, if anyone wants to take the page on by all means send me a message and I’ll make you an administrator. Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with this thought – don’t moan, organise. Goodbye and thanks for all the reading.
Cornwall Council elections to bring little change
Tomorrow, we’ll vote in the local elections. Or some of us. Those with postal votes will already have. Most people won’t bother. Others will vote along tribal party lines, not knowing o…
Today is election day.
There are some basic points you need to remember when looking at claims that we need to build lots more houses in Cornwall:
1) Most demand comes from people moving to Cornwall rather than local need;
2) The demand for second homes/holiday homes means many houses are not used to house people;
3) Building more houses will not result in lower house prices;
4) There are far more houses than households in Cornwall;
5) Building more houses does not boost the economy or create more jobs!
And – has your candidate agreed to the pledges in ‘A Charter for Cornwall’?