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Tackling the housing crisis in Devon

  • by JW

“Ilfracombe is in the midst of a housing disaster. Private rentals being flipped for AirBnBs … Locals in a low-wage economy unable to compete… Local development dodging affordable housing quotas…”

“One of the longer-term solutions is an Ilfracombe Community Land Trust.”


Any Questions on Radio 4 today was in North Devon:

Chris Mason presents political debate and discussion from the Landmark Theatre in Ilfracombe with the playwright James Graham, Minister for the Future of Transport and Decarbonisation Rachel Maclean MP, Shadow Environment Secretary Luke Pollard MP and former politician and author Ann Widdecombe.

Any Questions? – James Graham, Rachel Maclean MP, Luke Pollard MP, Ann Widdecombe – BBC Sounds


Because Rachel Maclean was delayed, the local MP for North Devon, Selaine Saxby, stepped in – and she along with the other three members of the panel answered the first question:

“Ilfracombe is in the midst of a housing disaster. Private rentals being flipped for AirBnBs … Locals in a low-wage economy unable to compete… Local development dodging affordable housing quotas… What does the panel propose as a solution?”

Following a hearty round of applause, Chris Mason said that he had noticed that there were 291 stays from AirBnB, but only 3 three rentals available in the Ilfracombe area.

These were the answers form the panelists:

Selaine Saxby is ‘pushing the local District Council’ to deliver on housing development around Ilfracombe ‘rapidly’ and complained about this being ‘held back’.

Anne Widdecombe agreed that the ‘right sort of housing should be built in the right place’. The other thing that this is a ‘low-wage’ economy needs to be tackled.

James Graham felt that we have been in a housing ‘crisis’ since the 1990s which hasn’t been tackled – and referred to the Macmillan government’s affordable housing programme.

Luke Pollard felt it was unacceptable that young people have to move away – and that it’s getting worse with working from home.


Ilfracombe has indeed been facing a housing crisis for many years now:

Shock figures for North Devon’s ‘broken’ housing market | North Devon Gazette (2011)

North Devon ‘facing housing crisis’ | North Devon Gazette (2017)

Hundreds at risk of being homeless helped by North Devon temporary accommodation – Devon Live (2019)

Apart from the usual housing estates:

Ilfracombe 350 homes plan recommended for approval – Devon Live

… there are other ways, with a meeting next week to consider one ‘solution’:

We have a housing crisis in Ilfracombe currently. Short-term solutions are going to be difficult but one of the longer-term solutions is an Ilfracombe Community Land Trust. This is a way of drawing down funding to build local homes for local people and at affordable social rents and for very long-term lets. And they will belong to the Ilfracombe Community.

Ilfracombe Climate Emergency Community Action – Posts | Facebook


Meanwhile, the government has just announced the latest new scheme:

First-time buyers in England offered new homes at up to 50% off | First-time buyers | The Guardian

Which can be seen as part of its research into “the key barriers and potential solutions to increasing supply”:

Tackling the under-supply of housing in England – House of Commons Library

However, not everyone agrees with the government’s encouragement of building houses to buy, – and that its a question of an under-supply of affordable properties to rent:

Sunak’s Plan to Guarantee Mortgages Won’t Fix the U.K.’s Housing Crisis – Bloomberg


For a little context, here’s a history of housing since the 1970s from the Guardian:

UK housing crisis: how did owning a home become unaffordable? | Business | The Guardian

With a very similar view from a very different perspective:

How have government measures contributed to the UK housing shortage? –

Here’s a list of how to ‘fix’ the crisis:

A Dummies’ Guide to Fixing the UK Housing Crisis

With another, again very similar list, from the FT – and just one suggestion here:

Local authorities, need to be able to acquire land for development at the value determined by existing planning consents. Local authorities should also gain the bulk of the uplift in value derived from changes to those consents. This would give them an incentive to promote development while benefiting existing residents.

A new deal for the young: how to fix the housing crisis | Financial Times

In the meantime, Covid has certainly shown things up, as outlined by the Conversation, which also looks at some ways out:

Many new models for co-operative housing, innovative co-housing developments and high-tech or sustainable material uses are being experimented with. The current crisis has starkly shown how critical our homes are and how vulnerable many are as a result of the choices we have made to support homeowners and the wealthy. Action for private tenants and the homeless are urgently required.

Coronavirus has shone a light on UK’s housing crisis – here’s how it can be fixed