Second homes: Carer facing homelessness says Pembrokeshire is being 'stripped of locals'

Report by Political Correspondent Owain Phillips, produced by Katherine Clementine

A community carer who sees empty second homes on her daily rounds is now facing homelessness amid rising private rent costs.

Caroline Lewis lives in Milford Haven and has been forced to look for a new home after her landlord issued her with a Section 21 notice - but the number of second homes in the county means finding another place to live is difficult.

She told ITV Wales: "I've been looking at properties, phoning estate agents, speaking to friends locally - but I have nowhere to go."

Being forced into temporary accommodation would mean Caroline would have to give up her beloved dog, Milly. Credit: ITV Wales

Caroline, who has been told to leave the property by August 9, says Pembrokeshire County Council has been as "amazing as they can be".

"They've told me if I don't get into a council property I'll have to go into temporary accommodation and I won't be able to take my dog which is upsetting because I've had her for 12 years.

"So I will be homeless on August 9 if I don't find anywhere.

"When I first moved down here the prices were reasonable, you could find a property for £500-£600. Unfortunately since we've come out of the pandemic the prices have gone up 5%-20%.

"I'm a community carer and we don't earn a lot of money. What we do earn we use to pay our bills, pay our rent. So this is pricing us out of the market to find somewhere."

In her job as a carer, Caroline drives around 100 miles a day to visit her service users, whom she cares deeply about.

But now she's facing homelessness, seeing empty homes while she carries out her rounds adds insult to injury.

She said: "During the pandemic there was an online bidding war and the amount of holiday lets that have been purchased is phenomenal now. I can drive down one street in Saundersfoot and there's nine holiday lets and then you see the empty second homes. It's just very, very expensive.

"We're not London and some of these properties are going for a quarter of a million pounds."

Long-term lets are in short supply and high demand in Pembrokeshire. Credit: ITV Wales

Caroline fears the impact the housing challenges are having on basic services in the area.

She said: "I think people are frustrated. When I spoke to Pembrokeshire Council they said there were about 1,500 households waiting to be housed and there are 200 people in temporary accommodation right now.

"People are upset that nothing has been done to cap the amount of properties that have been sold or second homes or holiday lets. Everyone has a right to do that. But what they're doing is they're stripping the communities of the locals. They're having to move somewhere else.

"It's breaking up families and communities and I think I think that's wrong."

Pembrokeshire Council says it's aware of then problems and is continuing efforts to increase its social housing stock.

'Crisis for care workers'

Carers provide a vital service - so given what she's going through, does Caroline feel valued?

She told ITV Wales: "I think my work is valued, I work with several vulnerable service users and there is a crisis for care workers.

"For me having to be uprooted, my service users rely on me throughout the day to make sure they can continue to live at home. It's a sad society that they're going to be punished and could lose that care.

"I don't want to leave because I love my job and I love the area that I live in."

The Welsh Government is cracking down on holiday lets and second homes. Credit: PA

The Welsh Government said it believes that everybody has a right to a decent, affordable home to buy or to rent in their own communities so they can live and work locally.

A spokesperson said: “We believe that everybody has a right to a decent, affordable home to buy or to rent in their own communities so they can live and work locally.

“We are committed to taking immediate and radical action using the planning, property and taxation systems to tackle the injustices in the current housing market, including the negative impact that second homes and unaffordable housing can have.

“We are putting in place a joined-up package of proposals to tackle the various problems this presents.

“We have already confirmed an increase to the council tax premiums councils can charge on second homes to 300% and have introduced new tax rules for holiday lets.

“We have also concluded a major consultation on proposed changes to the planning system which would give local authorities more control in managing numbers of second homes.”