Cornwall has as many homeless families as holiday lets

Dawn Rudgewick-Brown is now living in a B&B after being evicted from her home Credit: BPM Media

New figures reveal that Cornwall has as many families waiting for social housing as there are holiday homes in the county.

The numbers, published by The Countryside Charity from local authorities, AirBnbs and other holiday sites, show Cornwall has 661 per cent more short-term listings than there were five years ago.

As well as this, the charity CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England) said there are roughly 15,000 families on social housing waiting lists as of September 2021 - with roughly the same number of holiday lets available.

The charity said this is a sign families are losing out on a stable home due to how many houses are now used for tourists.

“If you walk down a street, you can find 15 houses which aren’t being lived in"

Dawn Rudgewick-Brown, a former homelessness charity worker who herself found herself on the social housing waiting list after being evicted from her rented home in Truro, said the figures didn’t surprise her, but that it is a “ridiculous” situation.

She said: “I don’t understand how anyone could say the two aren’t linked - families waiting and the number of holiday lets.

“If you walk down a street in Cornwall, you can find 15 houses which aren’t being lived in.

“People are entitled to buy what and where they want to, but there has to be a consequence for having two houses, or renting one out to holidays. There has to be a higher council tax, or something."

Ms Rudgewick-Brown, 51, and her two children are one of the many families in emergency accommodation, sitting on the Cornwall Homechoice list waiting to be called up to move into social housing.

Monique Collins is the manager of Newquay Drop In and Share Centre (Disc) which helps homeless people, and those at risk of homelessness with food packages and assistance for paying bills.

Monique Collins, manager of Disc Newquay. Credit: James Beck / BPM Media

"It’s a very worrying stat", she said. "I have people asking me seven days a week if there is any accommodation available as they’re being made homeless.

“People are still selling up or turning their spare homes into Airbnbs, it’s happening again ahead of Easter."

Selling up refers to the surge in evictions Cornwall saw last year, as many landlords capitalised on the huge number of people holidaying in the UK due to Covid restrictions by becoming holiday lets - rather than residential landlords.

After publishing the figure showing equal numbers of homeless families and holiday lets, CPRE’s chief executive Crispin Truman suggested that - nationwide - higher taxes for second homes and a better definition of ‘affordable’ need to be put in place.

Ms Collins suggested similar solutions to the crisis.

“We’ve turned into a very greedy county", she said.

"You can’t stop people from selling, it’s their right. But there just isn’t a solution for people living here.

She added that more and more working families, even those with middle-class incomes, are needing to approach Disc since rents have inflated and utility bills continue to rise.

Newquay Disc, she estimated, gave out around £500 a week to families a year ago for help covering bills. That figure is more like £2,000 a week now, and was £7,000 in the two weeks before Christmas 2021.

“We’re keeping them alive,” Ms Collins said.

"Shocking yet not surprising"

A spokesperson for Cornish homelessness charity Harbour Housing said the figures are a "reminder that something has to change".

They said: "These findings from the CPRE are shocking and yet not at all surprising. As more individuals and families increasingly see themselves being on the receiving end of eviction notices and facing homelessness, it's just another reminder that something has to change.

"We'd like to see the Government take the not-new issue of housing shortage, which has become something of an inferno in Cornwall, seriously."

They added that the charity wants to see planning permission introduced for properties proposed to be changed into a holiday home or AirBnB and greater investment in affordable housing from the Government.