Sunday, May 27, 2007

Homemaker

In the week leading up to my 30th birthday I had some strange dreams. One stood out above all the rest. It was twilight and I was leaning over the gate to my granddad’s old garden. In the dream, the garden was just as it used to be – an acre of so planted with vegetables, with waist-length nettles in one corner, a little hillock in another, and a sparse line of trees on the long side adjacent to a paddock where a dun pony lived. Even while I was dreaming, I knew that the garden – and indeed the paddock – were no longer like this. I knew I was looking at something that, like just about every ‘vacant’ green space around here, now has houses built on top of it.

During my lifetime, there have been houses upon houses built at each extremity of the village. The last couple of years have been particularly busy: it has been like a perpetual building site. The horses no longer spook at the skips and cement bags: they are a fact of life.

I have mixed feelings about all of this building work. I detest the disappearance of places I knew, places I played; yet I know that villages must grow. But the thing that annoys me about all of this building is that most of those new homes are not affordable housing for local people; they’re too expensive for that. Rather they’re retirement and holiday homes for the better off.

I read recently that locally, a house costs ten times most people’s annual salary. Am I the only one that thinks there is something fundamentally wrong about that?


18 comments:

Liz said...

Every little space is taken up with houses, isn't it? We live near a seaside village. Very beautiful but dreadful workwise. The salaries paid in this area make it impossible for local young people to buy.

On the other hand, my son works in London in a comparatively well-paid job and still can't afford to buy.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Spooky! I've been having this conversation with someone this afternoon. Our village is also becoming far too built up with houses that a local would only be able to afford should they win the lottery. It rattles my cage too. Especially when you see perfectly good housing which would accommodate a needy family and it's used as a weekend retreat. For a couple. I don't begrudge anyone holidays, I wouldn't say no to one myself but when you see the price of property in the area it makes my blood boil.

@themill said...

And the more wealthy retireds and second home owners you get the more loudly they will shout when someone does apply to build affordable housing. I understand that the huge estate next to the golf club (which has no reference to local architecture whatsoever) has produced only one child for the school.

@themill said...

Forgot also to say tho' not all locals require low cost housing. Here we have an issue with locals who would like to downsize for retirement but there are no properties available. We need a balance and a mix.

st said...

Houses, the most rewarding crop a farmer can grow, Financialy.
The village where i grew up has had three large estates built in the time i lived there, now the farmer has moved to the country.

mountainear said...

A development of 'only 10' executive homes is near to completion in a neighbouring village. They stand crammed together in what was once a paddock next to the rectory, monuments to architectural blandness with only scant reference to the vernacular.

The cheapest will set you back nearly £500k. They are of course priced far beyond the pockets of first-time buyers who are squeezed out of the market. It is these young buyers who should be able and encouraged to invest in the community - they are its life blood and its future.

Mopsa said...

And what's all that garbage about not having to pay full council tax for a second home? I think it should be significantly higher; if you can afford a second home you can afford a wealth tax.

Marianne said...

There are currently a number of newly discovered anti social activities. Smoking in public places, owning a second, third or fourth home, driving a 4x4 in town, flying anywhere at all.

I live in a rented house, post divorce, and have no prospects of ever again owning my own home, my children likewise. Not only that, but they leave education burdened with undreamt of debts. Something has to give here. The situation is untenable.

@themill said...

Agree Marianne. My youngest wants to leave school at 16 and become a tree surgeon - I'm not going to discourage him.

Omega Mum said...

Well, there are ways round it. A few more interest rates should help. Hasn't it always been awful for first time buyers though - I bought a broom cupboard in 1985; I earned nothing, and it cost eight times my nothing.

mutterings and meanderings said...

Glad it's not just me being mealy-mouthed.

Omega Mum, the problem here is that wages are so low and houses so expensive, pushed up out of reach by second-homers.

There is also a problem finding rented accommodation (I rent). I mean, why should a property owner accept £300-£400 a month, when they can get that a week in the summer for a holiday let?

lady macleod said...

I fear this phenomenon is all too common. The government and those of us who care about such things are trying to insure the Medina in Fez does not become gentrified. Investment in the Medina is good, and it is needed but how to walk that line is always a challenge.

I was thinking a bit about this last week as I was on the train Casablanca to Rabat. You can not believe what some people live in, boxes and tin roofs and closets with a door really. I have seen much of this in India,usually near a water source which creates its own problems.

So many of what could be lovely neighborhoods fall down from neglect. that is a place I approve of government spending. A splendid example is the area of NYC called Hell's Kitchen in the sixties. When Q and I lived there in the eighties it was lovely. They had rebuilt, spiffed up, and made the neighborhood clean and safe. I don't know why that can't be done more often.

Brom said...

Houses are now all bult on top of each other to maximise the profits for the greedy developers.

'Dad, what's a garden'?

ziggi said...

Don't all new developments have to have an element of affordable housing? Mind you, before we lived here, we lived on a new estate and the houses opposite us were all subsidised, the only stipulation to purchasing being that you'd lived in the parish for a minimum of 10 years. They were nearly all bought up by friends and family of people who worked at the council and sold on for £30k plus profit within the first few months, some without the initial purchaser even moving in. Good Plan Tony.

Anonymous said...

It's a vicious circle M&M. I had to work ridiculously hard to buy a place with my now husband. We have to continue to work ridiculously hard whilst bringing up our two infants. It's not good for them.

They are used to monumentally complex childcare arrangements and are really a bit neglected. None of this would have happened had houses been affordable in the first place ...

Two income households are now the norm. There are two ways for families to be sustained on one income. The first is for one earner to have a mega-career (rare by definition). The second is by living in relative poverty.

Lizzie said...

m&m - no, you are not the only one to think this. My youngest daughter, a bit younger than you, lives in Bristol with babe & partner; they have no option but to rent.

Karen said...

Vince and I rent for £395 a month, we cannot afford to buy at the moment and don't see us being able to for quite some time. Especially if house prices keep rising I don't see how I'll ever own my own home until my parents die (which I hope is a long time off yet!)

There should be a mix of housing - affordable ones for first time buyers, then the steps up ladder once you're on it.

They tried to build some houses on a site in the village where I grew up - there had been various metal sheds there for years which have now been demolished. The houses have been described as luxury accommodation close to local amenities and close to the Lake District. The houses would probably have a view of the nearby fells at Ennerdale.

My parents' house would be overlooked by the new development and would lose said view of fells. Fortunately I think local opposition has been so strong that these houses so far haven't appeared and I hope it remains that way.

There are a couple of potential holiday homes in the village but most of the houses are Victorian mining terraces so not "country cottage" enough for the holiday market (fingers crossed). Amazingly housing in the village remains relatively cheap but even so has shot up enormously in that you could buy one for £20k a few years ago but probably would have to shell out £60k for a run down house.

mutterings and meanderings said...

I reckon we should do what that okd fella in London did - claim squatters rights. The land he has rights to is now worth millions... but he is a mate of the Monty Pythons...