I had been ‘lucky’ to get the flat of the phantom, floods and pestilence - or so everybody kept telling me. I suppose I was, because affordable, rented accommodation isn’t that easy to come by where I live.
When I rang the local council to say I was being made homeless in three months and to ask whether they would help, I could almost hear the suppressed laughter humming down the wires. As I was not pregnant, did not have a drug or alcohol problem, or a child, I was not considered a priority.
When I was put through to the housing officer, he fairly snorted with mirth. “Ms M&M,” he said, “we don’t let houses where you live, we sell them.” “So what do you expect me to do?” I asked. “Pitch a tent in the garden?” His advice? Change the locks, then the landlord would require a court order to remove me and that would buy me a further six months. It was not a route I was prepared to follow.
Let’s face it, lots of local people can’t afford to get on that hallowed property ladder in a rural community that’s full of ‘desirable’ (at least in the summer) houses. If you’re not in a position to buy, you need to rent. But finding somewhere to rent can be equally competitive and ultimately heartbreaking.
I can quite understand why someone would prefer to let out a house to tourists for £350 a week in the summer instead of £350 a month all year round. It makes perfect economic sense. But it also makes me want to stamp my feet with frustration and do my Violet Elizabeth impression.
When plans were put forward for housing association, affordable property for rent, the NIMBYs circulated a petition. They didn’t want rented houses near them; heaven forbid, it would bring down the value of their homes. The council ignored them, the houses were built and filled in a flash. The waiting list is now so long, the housing association is refusing to add any more names to it.
Vacant council houses are as rare as rocking horse poo. As the housing officer says, they’ve mainly been sold. Quite a few are with their second generation of owners …as second homes for affluent folk who fancy a weekend on the coast.