Pondering Our Multiple Crisis and Finding “We Have The Power!”
Like many others, I look to our Political leaders to solve the housing crisis and a problem of local businesses not being able to recruit staff, as well as giving speedy humanitarian sanctuary to those fleeing the war in Ukraine. Whilst I can be disappointed at their lack of response to legislate to get my fellow citizens to do the right thing, I’ve just paused and had the thought that we citizens could just respond, and do the right thing for ourselves.
So first, let me explain how I’ve come to link these crises. On almost a daily basis, in my own community, I’m hearing of people being given notice to leave their rented home because the owner wants to sell to take advantage of high prices or to let to tourists with more money. Now I’m seeing the almost desperate adverts from local shops, care agencies, cafes, pubs and many more, who want those without work or those thinking of switching jobs, to choose them. So, local people are being driven out of our community and, surprise, surprise, there are not enough people left to fill job vacancies.
Then there are people fleeing war in Ukraine (and those people who try to reach us in overcrowded, leaky boats from France), who are looking for somewhere safe to live, work and raise their family.
I, like many others have called for Government to legislate so that before a home that someone lives in can become a holiday let or second home, an application would have to be submitted to the local planning authority for change of use; in theory giving communities the power to control the number of homes that are lived in and the number that are not, influenced by the local labour market as well as housing needs.
What if we as a community or a citizen of the UK, decided we could do something about it now? We could stop booking our holidays in properties that were built and intended or at least had the potential to be a primary residence for someone in that community. We could take our holidays in a property or facility that is there specifically for the purpose of being holiday premises or short term place to stay.
Bolder thought, all those people who own a second home, in a nice place away from their primary residence, could decide to return that home to its original purpose – to be a home for people to live in and work from. They don’t have to sell it, they could rent it out. If they want to come to Cornwall for a holiday, they could stay at a hotel or other purpose built visitor accommodation. All those people that holiday let what is in effect a home, could let it to local people or at least look to host a Ukrainian family because I suspect this war and the impacts of it are not going to be resolved quickly and those coming to Cornwall (and elsewhere) are going to need somewhere a bit more than someone’s spare room, as kind and generous as those offers are, short term.
What this should quickly do, if we all made that commitment tomorrow, is solve the local housing crisis, provide more good homes for Ukraine (or other refugees) to settle in our communities and provide labour for all our struggling businesses; maybe it would even be possible to find a tradesmen who can come out in days or weeks rather than months or years if at all!
I know I have moved to some utopian universe but just like we are all told (and I believe it to be true) that we can all play our part in saving the planet in the face of the Climate crisis, consuming less, re-using and repairing more, being less tidy in our gardens, we too can return homes to be homes and go on holiday to holiday premises. This re-use of homes as homes should also provide more capacity for us to welcome those fleeing even worse regimes than ours (apologies if you voted for our Government), to live in our communities. As our communities grow, filled with people who live, work and use the local facilities, more jobs would flow and Developers could turn their attention to what our visitors need to enjoy during their temporary stay with us.