Concept of 'live local' more important than ever in housing crisis

Exmouth and the former harbour Picture: Patricia Malek

Exmouth and the former harbour Picture: Patricia Malek - Credit: Archant

Rent increases of more than 25 per cent in the last 18 months are reported locally.

Increased demand to live in the West Country, an insufficient number of homes available with market forces of supply and demand combine to make a ridiculous and unacceptable housing crisis.

Happily, some agents are resisting calls from landlords to raise rents.  Land was treated as a communal asset in the early Americas, in Africa, Australia and New Zealand, an A to Z of indigenous cultures; everyone had the right to live somewhere on tribal lands.  

A teacher of early US history told me that American tribes were conned out of their lands because they did not understand personal ownership or money - ideas taken to the Americas by The Pilgrim Fathers. 

Are Cornish people indigenous; could the county be regarded as tribal land - or Devon?  To be 'a local' means more than just having a preferred pub, it means both working and living in the same locality.  It is the closest we could now get to the equivalent of indigenous tribes, but is also the practical issue our society faces to give local dwellings to workers in healthcare, farming, hospitality or any other jobs where staff should live close. 

Non locals could be charged huge amounts extra in council tax and much higher stamp duty on purchases;  landlords could be included in the equation to avoid loopholes. Such taxes would slow down the rush of incomers; a council tax windfall could be used to help with the homeless. People wishing to claim local advantage would need to register, but the questions would be similar to those to obtain bus passes; employers would surely welcome their staff living close to the job, so would not resist sharing information. 

Having avoided politics in my 81 years, there must be skilled bureaucrats and activists who could run with this and turn it into a practical and acceptable proposal.

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Paul Arnott, leader of East Devon District Council, suggested on 15th September that basic accommodation could be provided by building above EDDC parking areas. Cornwall is going ahead with simple cabins. If otherwise homeless people have absolutely minimum accommodation at minimum cost everybody wins, especially if lower costs mean more units built and more people helped. 

Homeless people need a place to call home more than anything. Extremely basic is enough, a front door to close and a fixed address. Individuals will recover their self-esteem which may be their most important step ahead.  

The need is now, so the question is how quickly could any of this be implemented?  Do we need architects, or is this within the capability of a good carpenter? My engineer uncle used build his own caravans in his garage; the facilities were quite adequate to keep my auntie happy for the summer!!  In the autumn he sold the caravan and spent the winter building the next one!! 

The corrupting influence of money and profit needs elected democratic government to step in with controls, whether Westminster, East Devon or Devon County Council.  This should restore the existing supply of housing into the provision of living space for local people; radical taxation could make manipulation in other people's dwellings totally unprofitable.  Building new affordable homes is vital for the future but will take time. 

If serious activists are needed to rally voters, hopefully we will have better ideas than blocking traffic and gluing ourselves to buildings!

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