Penzance at sharp end of homes crisis
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.
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"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."