Anthony Bernard: housing crisis action


Rent increases of over 25 percent over the past 18 months are being reported locally.

An increased demand to live in the West Country, an insufficient number of available housing units with the market forces of supply and demand combine to create a ridiculous and unacceptable housing crisis.

Fortunately, some agents are resisting calls from landlords to increase rents. Land was treated as a common good in the early Americas, Africa, Australia and New Zealand, an area from A to Z of indigenous cultures; everyone had the right to live somewhere on tribal lands.

An early American history teacher told me that American tribes were swindled off their lands because they did not understand personal property or money – ideas brought to the Americas by The Pilgrim Fathers.

Are the Cornish people indigenous? could the county be considered tribal land – or Devon? Being ‘a local’ means more than just having a favorite pub, it means both working and living in the same locality. This is the closest we can now get from the native tribal equivalent, but it is also the practical problem our society faces in providing local housing for workers in health, agriculture, l hospitality or any other work where staff should live nearby.

Non-locals could be charged huge additional amounts in council tax and a much higher stamp duty on purchases; homeowners could be included in the equation to avoid loopholes. Such taxes would slow the rush of newcomers; a housing tax windfall could be used to help the homeless. People wishing to have a local benefit should register, but the questions would be similar to those for obtaining bus passes; employers would surely welcome their staff living close to the workplace and therefore would not resist sharing information.

Having avoided politics in my 81 years, there must be qualified bureaucrats and activists who could use it and make it a practical and acceptable proposition.

Paul Arnott, Head of the East Devon District Council, suggested on September 15 that basic accommodation could be provided by building above the EDDC parking lots. Cornwall is moving forward with simple cabins. If, on the other hand, homeless people have absolutely minimum housing at minimum cost, everyone wins, especially if lower costs mean more units built and more people helped.

Homeless people need a home more than anything. Extremely basic is enough, one front door to close and a fixed address. Individuals will regain their self-esteem, which may be their most important step.

The need is now, so the question is how quickly could all of this be implemented? Do we need architects, or is it within the reach of a good carpenter? My engineer uncle built his own trailers in his garage; the facilities were quite adequate to keep my aunt happy for the summer !! In the fall he sold the caravan and spent the winter building the next one !!

The corrupting influence of money and profit needs an elected democratic government to step in with checks, be it Westminster, East Devon or Devon County Council. This should restore the existing supply of housing into a living space for local populations; radical taxation could make manipulation of the housing of others totally unprofitable. Building new affordable homes is vital for the future, but it will take time.

If serious activists are needed to rally voters, hopefully we’ll have better ideas than blocking traffic and sticking to buildings!

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