Cornwall housing crisis has become 'out of control inferno'

A former councillor has said that more affordable homes are needed in the region.

The former councillor in charge of housing at Cornwall Council has warned the new Conservative administration that the current housing crisis is out of control.

Andrew Mitchell was the former Cabinet member for homes at Cornwall Council before the elections last month.

While the independent councillor was re-elected, the Conservative group took the majority of seats and are now in control at County Hall.

However, Cllr Mitchell has warned that those in charge will have to make housing their number one priority due to "the current crisis in Cornwall."

Andrew Mitchell is concerned about the current situation.

He said: "It is like somebody has had a bonfire going for a while and has now thrown three gallons of petrol on it and it is now an inferno.

"We need to start looking at whether what is happening now is just a bit of overheating and will disappear as we come out of lockdown or if we need to accept that this is the new normal in Cornwall."

Cllr Mitchell fears that some private landlords might want to take advantage of the current spike in property demand and prices by evicting tenants and cashing in.

He warned that while the eviction ban was in place a number of people found themselves unable to afford their rents and so now it has been lifted are in danger of being forced out of their homes.

The St Ives West and Towednack councillor said that he hopes that the new Conservative administration at County Hall will make housing a priority.

Cllr Mitchell said that while the last council did do some good work in providing affordable homes, the authority being ranking as the best for providing affordable homes for the last two years – he admitted that there are other measures which also need looking at.

Not least is the need to ensure that affordable homes are truly affordable to local people.

He admitted that the decision to set affordable house prices at 80% of market rates was not making that happen.

"If you have a £300,000 home, which is what most new build family homes are coming to, to make that affordable they say you can buy it for £240,000.

"£240,000 is nowhere near affordable and to call it affordable is ridiculous."

Cllr Mitchell said that the council needed to work with registered housing providers like Cornwall Housing, Coastline and Ocean Housing, amongst others, to set an affordable rate which is 50% of market value.

Last year during the pandemic the Government launched an "everyone in" initiative where it called on local councils to ensure that homeless people were not left on the streets and vulnerable to the virus.

This meant that councils had to find temporary accommodation for many people who might otherwise have been homeless.

Cllr Mitchell said that Cornwall Council’s emergency housing budget had gone over by £3.5million as a result of ensuring that there was nobody left on the streets. The Government has said that it would reimburse councils for the cost.

While the initiative was welcomed it also highlighted that the official figures for the number of homeless people are vastly underestimated.

Cllr Mitchell said: "We always felt that there must be more than was said. It was said that there were 4,300 rough sleepers across the whole of the UK. But in ‘everyone in’, which was fantastic, there were ten times that number – there were about 41,000 needing B&B accommodation.

"There is an ambition to eradicate homelessness by 2027 – I would like to see it done quicker. But the problem is 10 times worse than what had been acknowledged."

But while Cllr Mitchell said that he wants to see Cornwall Council take a lead on tackling the housing crisis he recognises that it is not the only organisation that will need to work on it.

Credit: Richard Whitehouse, Local Democracy Reporting Service

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