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Penzance at sharp end of homes crisis

By The Cornishman  |  Posted: August 22, 2013

  • Keith Shilson and his partner Alana Bates with children Bernadette and Angela Shilson.

Comments (8)

THE ACUTE nature of the housing situation in Penzance has been highlighted by two local young families who feel trapped in unsuitable accommodation.

According to Cornwall councillor Cornelius Olivier, Penzance has, for its size of population, the highest housing waiting list of any town in Cornwall.

And Liam Collison and Keith Shilson are at the sharp end, living with their partners and young children in accommodation which is more suitable for single people or childless couples.

Liam Collison, who works part-time, and his partner Abby live with their 15-month-old son in a one-bedroom Penwith Housing Association-owned apartment at St Clare Flats. They moved in two-and-a-half years ago when the flat was adequate for their needs but the arrival of a baby boy has dramatically altered the situation.

"It wasn't too bad until he started walking but now you have to be switched on 24/7 – there are just so many dangers in the flat," said Liam.

"The lack of space is also an issue – he sleeps in with us in a travel cot as there is no room for a proper cot – and there is hardly any room for our possessions."

Liam said the housing association had told him it is just a "waiting game" to get somewhere more suitable.

The couple were offered a two-bedroomed house on Treneere at one stage but they turned it down because it was in a "terrible condition".

Keith Shilson and his partner Alana Bates have been renting a two-bedroomed house in Penzance for the past four years.

Keith, who works part-time while Alana is working full-time, says he doesn't think his situation is among the worst in the town but is nevertheless far from ideal.

"Our property has two bedrooms but the second one is no more than a boxroom and we just have a very small yard," he said.

"That was OK when we just had one small child but now we have two children aged 4 and 6 and for the past four years Alana and I have chosen to sleep on a temporary bed in the living room so that the children can use our old bedroom as somewhere to play while they sleep in bunk beds in the boxroom.

"We're not in a terrible situation but it's only going to get worse as the children get older and there doesn't seem to be much chance of us getting anywhere more suitable.

"We did look at some affordable housing which came on the market in Ludgvan but it was way over what we could afford – often affordable doesn't really mean affordable."

Mr Shilson believed the Government needed to consider looking at building much more social housing stock and urges them to consider re-introducing rent controls.

Three months ago The Cornishman highlighted the fact that Penzance was the worst town in Cornwall for affordable homes to be built, despite having the highest housing need.

But Mr Olivier said there was a little light at the end of the tunnel: "Another way of providing homes for local families could be to bring empty dwellings back into use.

"A limited amount of money is available for the renovation of such properties.

"I am therefore delighted that the Cornwall Council empty homes team, has responded positively to my request for them to focus their efforts on Penzance and develop a pilot project in the town."

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  • Doitdreckley  |  September 07 2013, 3:37PM

    Hellofcd makes an interesting comment which I have seen in Cornwall Labour Party circles before - 'remember that we are part of the UK'. The inference is that anyone can move here to Cornwall: a place with low wages, good jobs hard to come by and hard pressed public services. As a consequence we have to continue to sacrifice our green fields - which need for food an energy production - to build more badly designed boxes. Not acceptable It makes no sense to have kids unless your financial and housing situation is sorted. I would understand it if this was older children and people had fallen on hard times but you do not reduce pressure on yourself by having kids when your life is like this.

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  • robzrob  |  August 24 2013, 8:20PM

    So the first couple were given a housing association property to start with (at dirt cheap rent compared to private rent, no doubt) now they want another one, but the Treneere house was in a terrible condition. Oh what a shame, so they want to be given another property, but can't be bothered to get stuck in and do it up? Please. Why is it that I'm expected to pay for people like this and pay for their children too? Why have I got this obligation?

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  • nbazzle  |  August 24 2013, 12:53PM

    Only responsible adults should have children. It isn't for the wealthy at all. What a ridiculous thing to say

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  • hellofcd  |  August 22 2013, 8:08PM

    What a wonderful world we live in where people flock to comments boards to spout their ridiculously fascistic opinions. Now you're saying that only the well off should have children!? I weep for humanity, I really do. And as for the safety, it is absolutely NOT the tenants responsibility to pay for any such work, and it is up to the landlord to authorise these things.

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  • jimjams2011  |  August 22 2013, 7:45PM

    If you know you do not have enough space, and you have another kid then it is your own fault unless you can financially support that kid. They are already receiving property at below market rates. We can't seriously keep building more houses to accomodate the irresponsible. With regard to it being 'dangerous', then make the flat safe. as a renter it is your fault.

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  • hellofcd  |  August 22 2013, 11:25AM

    This is a real issue affecting so many in Cornwall (and the rest of the country). I find comments blaming less well-off families absolutely abhorrent and typical of Thatcher style rhetoric so frequently found in the pages of the Daily Mail. Those least well-off in our society are not so by choice, the vast majority of benefits are required by working people because wages are so low. The truth of the matter is that many more houses need to be built, especially in Penzance where just a handful of affordable homes were constructed during the last Cornwall Council term (2009-13). Remember, this is a part of the UK with some of the highest house prices and lowest wages, the problem is clear and not the fault of those trying to house their family.

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  • youngcornwall  |  August 22 2013, 8:52AM

    We can play the blame game all we like, the truth of the matter is, there isn't enough properties to meet the so many different needs of the people, only solution is to build and keep building new properties to meet these needs. We can't blame this couple and couples like them, because on our watch council houses were sold off, and they are left in this predicament.

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  • cornishbabe70  |  August 22 2013, 8:06AM

    Basically,they should not of had children especially if they knew that lack of space was going to be an issue,sorry i have no sympathy with these folks,as they now have children,at least they will not be homeless (out on the concrete) like a single childless person would be.So stop moaning and be grateful that you have a roof over your heads.

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