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Affordability crisis for young people in the countryside

  • by JW

A flat costs nearly ten times the median weekly pay for people aged 22-29 in the south west of England.

“In Penzance, homeowners think, ‘why rent it out when I could Airbnb?’”


There are not enough ‘affordable’ homes in East Devon:

Tackling the housing crisis in Devon – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Highlighting the rural housing crisis – Vision Group for Sidmouth

The CPRE has been pushing for more of this:

We know a huge amount of truly affordable housing is needed. So investment into this area, when multiplied by the number of homes needed, could bring about a massive boost to jobs and the economy – even cutting the government’s budget deficit.

Our research shows new rural housing can turbocharge the economy – CPRE

Getting rural housing right – Vision Group for Sidmouth

However, tax loopholes, shortage of council land and Airbnb are potential obstacles to real ‘affordable housing’:

Second homes and affordable housing – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Plus, how exactly do you calculate the ‘need’ for such housing?

What is the housing quota for the Sid Valley? – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Calculating Devon’s housing need by algorithm – Vision Group for Sidmouth


In the wake of the recent by-election, the government has tweaked the dreaded algorithm:

Planning Bill: Why do house building proposals face a backlash?

Following Tory MPs’ criticism, ministers unveiled a different tweak to the algorithm that placed a greater emphasis on building in urban areas and on brownfield sites… However, the change has failed to alleviate Tory backbenchers’ unhappiness on planning. Over 90 are said to be part of a WhatsApp group to share concerns.

Planning Bill: Why do house building proposals face a backlash? – BBC News


But as the same piece notes, the government still wants to push greater housing ownership amongst the young:

Ministers have prominently argued their planning system is key to boosting house building, and “levelling up” the country through development in the Midlands and the north of England. As well as being a key manifesto promise, this has emerged as a key plank of the party’s attempt to widen its geographical appeal. And others in the party argue that unless more housing is delivered, the party could find it difficult in the long term to attract younger voters struggling to get a foot on the property ladder.


However, no matter how many new homes are built, they are still going to be beyond the pockets of most young people:

Rural house prices in England and Wales rise twice as fast as in cities

Fears grow of affordability crisis for young people as property prices in countryside soar by 14.2% a year

Merryn Voysey, 32, a gardener who has lived in a Renault minibus for the last two years in Cornwall, where already high prices have increased a further 12% in the year to May, said he has no prospect of housing unless he moves to an urban area like Plymouth. “I saw a bedroom in a shared house for £650 per month, but that wouldn’t be affordable for me at the moment,” he said. “I could probably afford housing if I worked every day of every week but I want to enjoy my life.”

Jenny Fox, 31, a community support worker and parish councillor in Kingsand on the Rame peninsula in south-east Cornwall, said villages in the area had become “totally unaffordable for local families”. House prices have been soaring and there is a new shortage of rental properties as more owners turn to more lucrative short-term holiday lets on platforms like Airbnb. She lives with her partner in a shared house at below market rent, but if she had to find a home on the open market she said she would “have to move back with my parents and hope something comes available in line with local wages”.

“Most friends who grew up in the village are already priced out having moved to neighbouring villages,” she said. “The impacts of second homes and holiday lets are starting to become apparent there too. I am early thirties and want to have children soon but I am worrying about where I am going to live and whether my children will be able to live down here.”

Rural house prices in England and Wales rise twice as fast as in cities | Housing | The Guardian


Some young people are so desperate, they’re hoping for a crash in the housing market:

‘I’m praying the market might crash’: Young people in the UK’s rural hotspots feel priced out

The pandemic inspired some people to leave cities for a more spacious rural life – but what was the impact on young adults living in popular regions?

House prices in Wales grew by 11% over the past year – the highest growth rate in the UK. Younger buyers found that houses already had offers made on them for significantly over the asking price by people who hadn’t even viewed them yet.

“I’m just burying my head in the sand and praying the market might crash,” says Lowri. “Even when Wales was closed [in lockdown] and we were staying home, it was still being flooded with tourists who didn’t respect the rules,” she says. “You can feel like where you live is just a playground. I’m hearing about houses being bought unseen, and the prices in North Wales rising more than anywhere else in the UK.”

Tamsyn Kelly, 30, a comedian, grew up on a council estate in Penzance, and left when she was 18 to go to drama school in London, where she still lives. Her younger brother, who’s 27, still lives with their mum on that same council estate, and many of her friends are still in Cornwall and unable to afford to rent or buy their own home.

“My plan was to make money in the city and go home and live in Cornwall eventually,” she explains. “A few years ago, that seemed possible, but now there’s no way I could afford a property at home now. If I went home I’d have to register for a housing association property.”

According to data collected by Rightmove, sold prices for all types of property in Cornwall rose by 15% compared to 2019. When looking only at flats – a more common purchase for first-time buyers – they had also increased, with a 4% rise since 2019. The average price of a flat in Cornwall last year was £207,566.

When you compare that to the average salary, you can see the problem. The median weekly pay in the south west of England in 2020 was £558, dropping to £499 for people aged 22-29. That’s a pre-tax yearly salary of approximately £25,950 – so a flat costs nearly ten times that.

Of course, not everyone will want to, or be able to, think about buying, but the picture for renters is just as bleak. A Guardian investigation in May found that at the time of writing there were over 10,000 Airbnbs available across Cornwall but just 62 rental properties listed on Rightmove.

“It doesn’t make any sense for my brother to try and get rental accommodation,” says Tamsyn. “In Penzance, [homeowners] think, ‘why rent it out when I could Airbnb?’ I think it’s becoming harder and harder for young people to stay in Cornwall – most of my friends there are still living with parents, and we’re nearly 30. People aren’t able to get on with their lives and meet normal adult milestones.”

‘I’m praying the market might crash’: Young people in the UK’s rural hotspots feel priced out – BBC Three