Friday, March 09, 2007

A house, a house, my kingdom for a house...

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.


Anonymous said...

Mutterings and Meanderings, You say you would give your kingdom for a house. Sadly, poppet, I don't think you would.

You see, I own my own house in the city of bristol, but am not really any happier for it, because as soon as you are on the property ladder you just think - 'This house is a bit shit, it needs doing up', or in my case 'I've done this place up a bit, I must try and get a bigger / better one so I don't fall behind'.

The same with jobs and cars [but I don't have either at the moment].

We could swap places for 6 months. Initially you would be excited at living in a house worth the thick end of quarter of a million quid.

Until you realise that just buys you a bog-standard two-up, two down in the metropolis. And it is not even a 'posh' area [euphemistically called 'up and coming' because the streets are full of skips].

Who knows, you might like the idea and stay. But I suspect you would be heading back to the homeland.

It is not that I am unsympathetic to your plight, and 'nesting' is a very strong instinct for women. But I have learned that it is easy to spend one's life wishing one was in a different job / house /area and so on, and in doing so scare away the 'butterfly of happiness' from landing on one's shoulder.

Although I concede that sometimes is easier if the flutter-by has an actual address to home in on. But as the Chinese proverb says 'Be careful what you wish for..'

All the best...

mutterings and meanderings said...

Anon, tbh, I would've been very happy staying in the house I lived in a year ago, but was forced to move out of as the landlord was selling up. Two-up, two down, no central heating or double glazing, but a view to die for. I was there for four years and was devastated when I had to move.

The Grocer said...

As the owner of a small rural retail business I would offer the opinion that you need a healthy balance of all, i.e local people living in villages year round and affluent summer visitors. Over the last four years I have certainly found that I am dependant on both.

mutterings and meanderings said...

Quite, Grocer, I am not of the 'bugger off visitors' school of thought. I also believe you need an influx of fresh blood. However, when one is personally affected by the 'rural housing crisis', it is difficult not to stamp one's feet in frustration. I don't know what the answer is ...

rilly super said...

I don't really know what you mean I'm afraid dear. If my own family can occupy three houses in one village then I don't see how you can say there's a housing shortage. I bet you could buy at least two houses and still have change from hubby's city bonus!

Anonymous said...

Hmm..I can't help thinking that the answer to your predicament lies in that splendid invention the 'buy-to-let' mortgage.

Okay, you can't afford that 200k pad in the village. And the young family can't afford to buy it either, but they can afford to rent it.

So you trot off to the mortgage broker, and say I want to borrow 200 k to buy said house. But you don't have enough income he/she says. No, but the income will come from renting it out, as I will not be living there. So you buy the pad and the young family move in.

Their rent pays the mortgage and a bit of your rent. The young family then think - 'Hmmm that Mutterings and Meanderings has got herself a good idea, why don't we do something similar ? We will buy a little cottage and rent it out, even though we can't afford to buy it ourselves..'

Within 20 years I can confidently predict everyone would one a home, just that they wouldn't actually be living in it. Although I suppose they could retire to it when the mortgage is paid off....