“Our vision for Cornwall is a place where everyone has a genuinely affordable home and where no-one is homeless.”
Below you will find:
• Examples of existing work in Cornwall addressing the theme.
• Examples of existing work outside of Cornwall addressing the theme.
• Proposals of how work in this thematic area might be developed and expanded.
Existing Works in Cornwall
Covid-secure Accommodation for Rough Sleepers
Harbour Housing and We Are With You are working with Cornwall Council in Newquay to provide the Duchy’s first Covid-secure cold weather provision, a project coordinated by Cornwall Housing. Known as Cold Weather Provision, these rooms are available between December and March
The cold weather provision is a static facility located in Newquay that is operating over the winter period. It accommodates twelve people at a time who are either rough sleeping or at immediate risk of rough sleeping, providing them with safe accommodation and tailored support.
People accessing the service have their own self-contained room and food is provided which minimizes the risk of needing to use any shared facilities, keeping people safe from Covid-19.
Harbour Housing support staff work with beneficiaries at the scheme on a housing plan, helping them to access specialist services and work towards a move on to more permanent, settled accommodation.
This acts as a short-term intervention, helping people off the streets and into more appropriate housing. Through this work 57 people have been moved into permanent accommodation.
Truro Homeless Pods – Carrick Cabins
On 26 March 2020, the Government asked local authorities in England to offer emergency accommodation to rough sleepers. Cornwall Council acted swiftly to ensure that everyone known to be sleeping rough in Cornwall was offered accommodation.
In partnership with Cornwall Housing Ltd, a number self-contained housing units (Pods) were set up in Truro. These pods are portacabins made into one bedroomed self-contained units. There are 11 single-berth and fully self-contained units, each with showers and cooking facilities.
The mayor of Truro, Bert Biscoe, and local police have all noted how successful the Pods have been. Cornwall Housing is working on-site in partnership with We Are With You (formerly Addaction), St Petrocs and other services in order to meet the support needs of the residents and find them a suitable, more permanent, home to move to.
The pods were adopted as a temporary solution until a better and permanent solution is found. In March 2021, a new centre for homeless people in the centre of Truro was granted planning permission. Cornwall Council said that the new centre would be used as a permanent replacement for the temporary accommodation pods.
Citizen’s Panel on Housing in Penzance
Cornwall Poverty Forum hosted the first Citizens Panel in Cornwall. The citizens panel was convened to address the following question: “High housing costs, low paid insecure work, eviction and homelessness are all issues that blight local communities in Cornwall, including Penzance. How can we as a community come together to address these issues?”
The Panel was chosen by random stratified selection to reflect as accurately as possible the profile of the population. Then over five weeks a series of presenters including the Council Portfolio holder for Housing, representative of Cornwall Residential Landlords Association and a volunteer at the Homeless Breakfast project. Each speaker was invited to make a number of specific suggestions of improvements to the system.
At the final session the panel reviewed the proposals in line with information and made a number of recommendations Some of these were drawn from the expert speakers; some were changed and adapted, and some emerged directly from the citizens panel itself. These were offered to Cornwall Council’s Housing review and were warmly received.
Sadly the arrival of Covid prevented a follow up event planned to look in more detail at the issues the Panel raised. It is hoped this may still happen soon.
Full report available at https://penzance-citizen.org
St Petrocs Crisis Worker
As the pandemic hit the UK last year and the country went into lockdown, we noticed that despite the country’s “Everyone In” directive from Westminster, there was still a large number of people for whom there was no support. The usual “flow” of people into situations which forced them to sleep rough did not decline.
In partnership with Crisis, we set up a Crisis Worker to assist people who were becoming homeless, especially when it was due to the pandemic and its associated lockdowns. The worker operates much like an Outreach Worker but has more flexibility to work with sofa-surfers and anyone at risk of rough sleeping. Strong links with voluntary and statutory services in Cornwall have proved essential to maximise positive outcomes for clients.
In the first 6 months of operating our Crisis Worker has engaged with 84 people and assisted 55 of them into accommodation.
Existing Works Outside of Cornwall
The London Accessible Housing Register
The London Accessible Housing Register (LAHR) supports disabled Homeseekers by providing information on accessible social housing in the capital. This helps landlords to collect, display and store information on their accessible housing stock.
The LAHR enables disabled Homeseekers to make informed choices about their housing, and more accurately identify properties that would meet their access needs.
An accessible home environment promotes independence and can reduce the care and support needs of people moving from less accessible accommodation. Social housing landlords also benefit by making the best use of their accessible housing. The LAHR helps them meet disability equality duties and improve customer satisfaction.
Housing First Manchester
Greater Manchester Housing First (GMHF) is a three-year pilot project that aims to provide safe, secure homes for more than 300 people who are homeless or at the risk of being homeless across the region.
The Housing First approach was first developed in New York by Pathways to Housing in 1992. It is an evidence-based approach, which uses housing as a platform to enable individuals with multiple and complex needs to begin recovery and move away from homelessness.
The approach is based around seven key principles:
1. People have a right to a home
2. Flexible support is provided for as long as it is needed
3. Housing and support are separated
4. Individuals have choice and control
5. An active engagement approach is used
6. The service is based on people’s strengths, goals and aspirations
7. A harm reduction approach is used.
Unlike other supported housing models, individuals do not need to prove they are ready for independent housing, or progress through a series of accommodation and treatment services. There are no conditions placed on them, other than a willingness to maintain a tenancy agreement, and Housing First is designed to provide long-term, open-ended support for their on-going needs.
Proposals for Future Work
More Controls on Second Homes
In order for the housing situation to be improved in Cornwall there must be tougher restrictions on the purchase of second homes. According to Cornwall Live, Cornwall has the most empty houses of any local authority area in England. Cornwall tops the list with its 18,621 empty houses, of which 13,642 are second homes mostly used as holiday houses.
When levels of second home ownership rise so too do average house prices, making entire areas unaffordable for working Cornish communities. For example, in five parishes of Cornwall where second homes account for more than 35% of all housing the average house price is 87% above the Cornwall average.
In 2016, more than 80% of residents in St Ives voted to reserve new homes for full-time residents. Despite consistent attempts to undermine the town’s second home ban by estate agents, politicians, and other interested parties, the second home ban has not failed. The price of new homes in the town is 13 per cent below what it might have been if the previous growth rate had continued, and the price of existing homes has risen at a rate consistent with the rest of Cornwall.
More work must be done to either crack down on second home ownership or ensure those that own second homes still contribute to Cornish communities when they are not occupying their properties.
A rent control is a government imposed limit on the amount that a landlord can charge for the rental of a property. There are a number of different ways to control rent. For example, you might cap rents, cap increases to rents, or temporarily freeze rents.
As part of their Renters Manifesto, Generation Rent has proposed the introduction of rent controls. Here is what they have to say:
Rents in England eat up household income and push people into financial hardship. One in four private renters in England lives in poverty. Over half of the families with children living in private rented accommodation are below the poverty line.
We need rent controls that bring rents down to 30% of median local income, following the accepted yardstick of affordability. Rent controls should be introduced incrementally, to prevent negative consequences for current tenants, and should be accompanied by a massive increase in public housebuilding.
Additions of Accessible Housing and lifetime homes to the Local Plan
We want a commitment to amounts of houses accessible to anyone who has an extra need accounted for in planning and development as much as affordable housing.
The below links show how far behind the south west are on commitments to lifetimes housing and accessible housing.
Recommendations from the Rt Revd Hugh Nelson, Bishop of St Germans
These recommendations are taken from The Children’s Society report A manifesto for Local Government. They are chosen as the most relevant to Local Authorities and to the particular needs of children and young people in Cornwall.
1. Local welfare assistance/crisis support
1.1. Local councillors should support our campaign to Strengthen The Safety Net for families facing financial crisis, by calling on Government to provide sustainable, long-term funding for local welfare provision.
1.2. Every local council should have a Local WelfareAssistance Scheme in place to provide emergency support to families facing financial crisis.
1.3. Local authorities should review their Local Welfare Assistance Schemes and ensure they are fit for purpose, able to provide rapid and dignified support to those in the greatest need in their areas.
2. Housing insecurity
2.1. Local planning policies should prioritise genuinely affordable, family-sized homes for construction in their area.
2.2. Local authorities should consider using their powers to introduce landlord licensing schemes to improve the quality and security of privately rented homes.
2.3. To limit disruption to children’s lives, wherever possible homeless families should not be placed in temporary accommodation outside of their local authority area.
2.4. Areas in England should work together to develop homelessness strategies across Counties, Combined Authority or City Region areas. These strategies should incentivise councils to place families in housing locally and near to schools, and ensure that families aren’t being placed in areas which put children at risk.
3. Children’s well-being
3.1. Local councillors should commit to consulting meaningfully with children and young people around the decisions that impact them in their communities.
3.2. Local authorities should undertake regular assessments of children’s well-being in their
area- at least every four years (until national measurement is in place) and ensure that children’s well-being is specifically considered when making policy across your council.
Local authorities should work with local partners
to develop a Well-Being Strategy for the local area, with a focus on improving well-being of children and young people.
Affordable Housing – Anita Ballin
Among many concerns, the main local one that stands out is the lack of affordable housing, not only for the disadvantaged and unemployed but also for key workers, including teachers, nurses etc.
It is far from easy to resolve, I realise, and building ever more houses will not in itself solve it, important though this is. We also need to make more of the existing housing stock. I would suggest, therefore:
1) an audit of the present housing stock throughout the county is carried out to identify empty properties and vacant flats above shops. Properties that have been empty for more than 6 months should be compulsorily purchased by the Council.
2) a serious plan to stop so many potential family homes becoming second homes or Air B n B. There needs to be a limit on the number of Air B n B properties in each locality and they need to be properly taxed – both income and business taxes. Second-home owners should pay double council tax to help make up for negative impact they are making on local communities (loss of shops and post offices, primary schools etc.)
3) when affordable houses are built as part of a new development, they must remain in the social housing stock (through some scheme of joint ownership) and not be allowed to be sold on the open market.
Proposals from Dr. Nigel Haward and Mrs Jane Haward Ludgvan,
The basic needs of shelter, warmth, food and security are essentials for family life and mental health.
For too many years affordable housing has been on the agenda but action has been too slow. However, the situation is not the same as 20 or 30 years ago. House prices in general have rocketed. In recent times disposable income, resulting from high salaries, bonuses and pensions, for example in London, has been directed at the acquisition of second homes at inflated prices in rural areas. House prices which were two or three times the average salary are now well beyond the reach and affordability of ‘local’ families. Without a concerted effort by those in positions of influence ie, elected members of the County Council, the situation will not change. Initiatives that restrict ‘selling on’ the housing stock to the highest bidder must be implemented irrespective of political and re-electability issues.
For many ‘local’ people renting will always be the only option in an unfair and unequal marketplace. When renting out a property becomes a source of income as in ‘buy to let’, monthly rents are also become beyond those on basic wages or salaries in the county. Affordable rents are as contentious as affordable housing. The added extra that plagues the sector is a lack of security for tenants especially in a popular seasonally tourist county such as Cornwall. Clearly length of tenancy is a balance between owner and tenant.
House ownership and renting is one of the most urgent issues that should be tackled as a priority in an imaginative way by our elected representatives on Cornwall Council
Housing and Homelessness
Cornwall Council to be asked to introduce some kind of regulation to require that residential property for sale should be offered first (for one month, say?) to local people, with perhaps 2 or 3 years’ residence? The pressure from developers and wealthy incomers seems to be increasingly excluding local people from the market.
The Revd. Keith Owen, Chair of CTIPA
I would encourage the Council to look carefully at the situation of homeless and potentially homeless men and consider extending the Pod scheme which has provided an effective bridge into better conditions for street homeless. Also it could provide emergency accommodation for men made homeless by job loss or relationship breakdown to prevent them sliding into street homelessness and give them a base from which to establish themselves again.
The Revd. Keith Owen, Chair of CTIPA, the parent charity of The Penzance Breakfast Project and Food Bank, and Chair of St. Michael’s Housing Society.