I had reason recently to be in touch with the homeless unit at Pembrokeshire County Council. A nice lady, and they can help me. As I’m responsible for my son, we can be accommodated at the hostel in Pembroke. Thing is, I used to work at the Prince’s Trust, with kids that lived at the hostel, and there is no way on earth I’m taking my kid there. Not happening. And Pembroke? A forty-five minute drive from my land where I have to visit twice to day to tend my livestock. Given that one of the reasons for refusal of my OPD planning permission was too much driving, then that’s a solution that seems absurd, to say the least. So now what? Luckily, having procured a gig here at your favourite local rag, I’ve got a few more resources available. So, let’s have a look shall we?
Looking around at the prices of properties available to rent can leave one feeling pretty bereft. What I want to know, is how does anyone afford these rents? The cheapest two bedroom I can find close to my land is in Clunderwen. It looks fabulous in the pictures, but I know it’s rough, because someone I know used to live there. It’s a pretty little place, with a good amount of space, but the garden is shared – which isn’t mentioned in the particulars of course – and there are usually snails in the front room. The fridge has to live in a cupboard under the stairs because the kitchen isn’t big enough, and there’s a washing machine, but it doesn’t work. My point is, anything close to affordable is slightly sketchy.
It’s weird when you’re renting, and you lie there in bed, looking up at someone else’s peeling paint on the ceiling, unable to do anything about it because they don’t want you to, and you’re not really inclined to, being that your contract is at most a year long. And who in Pembs is in a position to buy? Really? Are there any first time buyers left? And what do they buy? There’s not much on the market locally for under 100k. How do people raise mortgages? Some people have to rely on parents or suchlike, but some don’t have that kind of help. And there are no council houses, because they all got sold. I remember my grandad refusing to buy his council house. “They’re social houses for people in need” he used to say. The next people to live there bought it. Now it’s a private let, with a rent as high as any other three bed in that particular town.
I’ve put my name down on the council house register, because the council are basically not giving me a lot of choice. It’s daft the I own and work on land that I have to leave at night times. I’m there all day. What’s the big deal about where you actually sleep? Why does that constitute home? What is home? I can’t be homeless, when I’ve got more of a potential home than someone who is actually proper homeless, but they’re telling me I’m homeless. Define homelessness.
When I bough my land I tried to rent a house nearby. Even though there are loads of empty dilapidated properties, none are available for use. I put a shout out on the local facebook page and got not one reply. A week or so later, someone put a post on the same page, asking for a holiday let for their family to use at Christmas. About thirty people replied, with photos of lovely little houses, that looked small enough to be affordable to a local family to rent. But they’re all holiday homes. Every single one. It’s no secret that many villages in our county are made up almost entirely of holiday lets and second homes. Our prices are inflating all then time, especially when bright sparks at the Daily Mail publish articles on how you can get a house in Pembs for half the price of Cornwall, so why not move to Pembs, and buy up all the housing stock? It wouldn’t be so bad if the housing stock got replaced, but every time someone puts a planning application in for affordable homes, or even any homes, the vigilantes come out, insisting on keeping as big a radius as possible around them, even though they’re usually people that moved here to retire, and all they’re really worried about is their property prices and the feeling that any new builds will spoil their postcard. It’s an endless circular mess, and to be honest, who of you, reading this, would rather take your kid to the hostel than move onto your land illegally and face court? If that’s the choice, I know what I’ll be doing.
I’m lucky in that my son’s dad is letting me, as well as the kid, crash at his place while I look for somewhere, or get planning at appeal, whichever comes first. So ultimately, if you don’t have an ex that’s a brilliant dad and not only takes responsibility for the kid, but for me too, and steps in to help in this way, what do you do? If you don’t have friends offering you places to stay like I’ve had, you have the hostel as an option, and that’s it.
How can there be, as reported recently, so many homeless people wandering around Tenby that the chippy are giving out free meals? How did that happen? When did that happen? There was no homelessness back in my school days in Tenby. If there was one homeless person they were almost a curio, like that guy who used to wander around Whitland and tragically, and almost unnoticeably, died in that fire. Now we have so many homeless that they’re noticeably cold and alone in a place like “Fair and Fashionable” Tenby, relying on the kindness of the chip shop? According to the council’s reasoning, I’m eligible for free chips. Perhaps I’ll gather up everyone down there and let them live on the field. Always an option….