Second homes: New family forced to leave Cornwall six months after baby was born

 Mike and Amelia cornwall housing story
Amelia, Mike and Jovi on the doorstep of their new house in Plymouth

Becoming first-time parents and welcoming a new baby into the world is one of the most exciting and happy times in life for many.

But when you are faced with homelessness while having a newborn baby to look after, the pleasure of being a family becomes marred with stress and anxiety.

That was the case for Mike Osbourne and Amelia Beaver, who had just had baby Jovi and were living in a rental house in the Cornish village they had both called home for many years.

Jovi was born in January, but in March they were given their eviction notice – the landlord had kindly given them four months’ notice instead of the standard two.

Despite the extra months to find a property, rental homes were virtually non-existent in the village of Millbrook in South East Cornwall.

Mike and Amelia have generations of family from Cornwall

The surrounding villages of Kingsand and Cawsand a mile up the road are known as holiday home villages which are bustling in the summer but near empty come winter.

A report by Cornwall Council in 2021 looking at second homes records that Maker-with-Rame - the parish which looks after Kingsand Cawsand and Cremyll which surrounds Millbrook - had one of the highest rates of second homes in the county at 33%.

Private rentals hadn’t been coming up, while the rent seemed to be higher too - and it is.

According to Rightmove, the current average asking rent for a three-bedroom house in Cornwall is £1,118 per calendar month, a 12.6% increase on last year where it was £993.

In the four-month period they were looking, the family say only two rentals came up in Millbrook and one in Cawsand. One property was an ex-council house at £1,000pm and one was too damp for them to live in with a baby. The Cawsand property was a small cottage with one room on each floor for just shy of £1,000pm.

Mike and Amelia with baby Jovi outside of their Cornwall home before they had to move

The situation had gotten so dire that they had considered living in their van near Mike’s parents in Launceston.

Instead, through a friend who was an estate agent, they managed to secure a short-term tenancy in Plymouth – a city in Devon – which now also means they are no longer eligible for housing in Cornwall through the council.

Amelia, 37, said: “I know we were not the only people in this situation but it was incredibly anxiety-inducing. Every day it was hard to get away from it. There was a lot of fear, it was one of the most stressful things we’ve been through.

“We were hoping something was going to happen. I don’t know what would have happened if we didn’t have a friend who was an estate agent. We couldn’t see a way out. We were going to be in the van near our parents.”

Amelia added: “We always rented before Covid, everything was ok we could find a place – for some reason now it’s just impossible, everything has changed.

“What was £600 in rent is now a grand, it’s impossible. Especially with bills rising like they are, we can’t possibly afford that.

Jovi and Amelia

“You used to be able to work locally to afford the rent. Now it doesn’t line up with earnings.”

Amelia and Mike’s families have always lived in Cornwall. Amelia has great-great-great-grandparents who came from Cawsand, and Mike’s family are from Launceston.

Drum teacher and sound technician Mike said: "We want to live in Cornwall because our family are there, our support network – it’s our home. Amelia’s dad isn’t too well nor is her nan and we want to be near them. We want our child to grow up here.

“This is a community we have grown to be a part of full of people we trust, it’s really important knowing people will be looking out for Jovi when he’s older out playing and things. Village life and the community are really important.

Sunrise over Millbrook estuary Credit: Kim Gale

“We have so many family generations here and it feels like you should have the right to live where your family has always been – it’s home, it's where our heart and soul is.”

The couple are still actively looking to move back to Cornwall but when and if that will happen is uncertain.

Like many others in the county, Amelia and Mike want to know what is going to be done - could the local authority be doing more to help people like them who through no fault of their own are looking for a house to call a home in a place which is seeing locals squeezed out?

They fear Cornwall is losing its charm and authenticity that so many come here for, and that it will become “one big holiday park” with no one left in the winter and no trade either.

They say something needs to be done to tackle the low availability and holiday let situation where they are seeing what once was ‘the village for locals’ being “swallowed up by a holiday industry”.

What Cornwall Council has said

A spokesperson said: "The council has an open housing register which means that any household can apply to it regardless of where they currently live."

They said that there are restrictions on how council-owned homes and registered provider homes, that the council has nomination rights to, are allocated. It means those with a local connection to Cornwall are given priority. 

They added: "If a household moves into a new home, and they wish to remain on the Homechoice Register, their application will be re-assessed based on their current housing situation. This may, or may not, result in a change to their banding. 

"With regard to second homes and holiday lets, we are working to get the legislative changes we need at Parliament to be able to control the amount of second homes and also give us the ability to be able to set a council tax surcharge against those homes.   

"The council has proposed to the Government that planning permission should be needed to switch a home to a second residence or holiday let, and the authority should be able to charge double council tax on second homes.  

"The lack of decent affordable housing that residents are experiencing all over Cornwall has been brought to a head in the aftermath of the pandemic. There is an imbalance in supply and demand that we have never seen before. "