Tuesday, 5 July 2022


One of my recent columns in the Cornish Guardian addressed the inequality at the heart of the housing market. The article was as follows:

Ten years ago in the Cornish Guardian, I wrote about how figures released by the Office of National Statistics showed Cornwall to be the “second home capital” of the United Kingdom, and that the National Housing Federation had warned “second homes” were increasingly pricing local people out of their communities with the countryside becoming a “place for the well-off to enjoy at weekends."

This was also at a time when a prominent London author and journalist had written a piece about how he had "agonised" about buying a “second home,” stating he initially feared he would be seen as an absentee "invader." But somehow, he came to the conclusion that: "However unfair it is that some people can afford holiday homes while young locals find it impossible to get started on the property ladder, Cornwall would die without second homes."

I described this as “twaddle” and quoted a local journalist who wrote: “The last thing any struggling community needs is to be patronised and treated like a basket case by those who have, by their greed, been the architects of many of its ills. By purchasing a property in a village, holidaying there a couple of times a year, and thereby transforming that village into a playground of the rich, these leeches suck the heart out of communities.”

It was my view that the housing market was in crisis and “totally out of control.” One decade on, the situation is even worse, not least because of the inaction of the UK Government.

While there are a range of factors making the present housing crisis so bad, there are an increasing number of metropolitan commentators, once again, trying to rubbish concerns about second homes – particularly to the west of the Tamar.

One recent article in the Daily Telegraph was nonsensically titled: “Why Cornwall can’t survive without second home owners.” The piece was extremely insensitive. It promoted the argument that second homes are good for the economy. It described concerns about the impact of the multiple-property-owning households as “attacks,” it was critical of the proposed registration of “rented holiday homes” and, unbelievably, described the need for lifeboat volunteers “to live within five minutes of the station for a shout” as a “niche local issue.”

A separate piece in the same newspaper misrepresented the comments of the airbnb boss Brian Chesky to generate a deliberately inflammatory headline that said: “Cornwall risks becoming 'xenophobic' without outsiders.”

Such crass comments should not deter campaigners for housing justice, and we should be ever more determined to build a new political system that prioritises need over wealth and privilege.

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