‘It’s a nightmare, we’ve never had anything like it’ - Special report on Newquay’s covid housing crisis
Resident Tia Bartram
24th March 2021
By Warren Wilkins
People are facing a housing crisis in Newquay due to the lack of properties available because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Some people have already been made homeless and others may face a similar fate because there are virtually no properties to rent privately or through Cornwall Council’s social housing Homechoice scheme.
There are regularly more than 50 applications for rental property when it does become available – and more than 100 for Homechoice housing.
Many people say they cannot afford to rent due to spiralling charges landlords are putting on their properties.
Even people who can afford to buy a home say there are few properties on the market.
Under Government rules landlords cannot evict tenants during the pandemic but can give them six months’ notice to leave.
Newquay estate agents say the problem has come about partly because so few people want to move during the pandemic.
Landlords are also wanting to sell up to cash in on the spiralling house prices due to the number of people from outside Cornwall wanting to move to Newquay as more and more are working from home.
Many are wanting to rent first, which has exacerbated the problem in the rental market.
Other property owners in Newquay are keeping their premises empty to cash in on the surge of expected holidaymakers wanting to enjoy a staycation as foreign holidays are banned.
They will be able earn thousands of pounds more a month offering their properties as a holiday let compared with renting.
Many people are being housed by Cornwall Council in emergency accommodation in Newquay, such as hotels and guest houses, but they are worried what will happen when tens of thousands of holiday-makers descend on the town.
Leigh Collins said: “My partner and I became homeless after the first lockdown last year and we were placed into temporary accommodation.
“The prices for renting had already shot up due to the pandemic and absolutely no-one would accept pets.
“We have been in the same temporary accommodation since June and offered no help.
“We have not been allocated a new housing officer nor been offered new accommodation.
“On Homechoice there can be up to 140 applicants per property.
“We do not have children therefore the council are unwilling to help us.
“We both work. I work part time to ensure my dogs are never alone and cared for whilst my partner works full time. We could afford to rent but there is nothing available in Newquay.
“I have lived in Newquay my whole life. I work in Newquay, my family are in Newquay and my friends.
“It’s become unbearable and our mental health has taken a huge hit.”
David Ball Estate Agents, Newquay Property Centre and Start and Co websites all show they have no properties available to rent in Newquay.
Jonathan Start, from Start and Co estate agents, believes the dire housing situation will remain for the rest of the year.
Jonathan said: “I would call the situation a short-term housing crisis in Newquay.
“It is a convergence of a number of different factors. Most of it is covid related.
“No one is opting to move during the lockdown and people are working from home so there is a very restricted number of houses for sale and rent.
“On top of that extraordinary demand everybody is migrating to the South West.
“The restricted supply and the demand do not go well together. It’s really tricky.
“We are getting landlords selling up because of the price rises.
“Added to that if people have got an empty property they are now going down the holiday let route at least for this summer when they can cash in.
“It’s staycation demand. There is extraordinary demand because people want to holiday in Newquay. No-one wants to go on a foreign holiday.
“The rental and sell property available is as low as we can remember. We have none for rent and four to sell.
“When we have had a place to rent we’ve had 50 applications or more.
“I think the factors will conspire against the market for the rest of this year.
“The housing market has its ups and downs and will right itself as everything does.”
Daniel Ball from David Ball Estate Agents said: “We have no properties available to rent and we get 50-plus applications when one does become available.
“It is worrying.
“The problem is very few people are leaving their properties during covid.
“Tenants are not giving notice because they are scared they won’t be able to find another property.
“People from out of county want to live here and many want to rent first so it has created this vacuum. It’s a nightmare.
“People are also wanting to holiday let their properties as an Airbnb rather than commercially let as it is more lucrative.
“We have never had anything like this before.”
Resident Tia Bartram, who lives in Newquay with her husband and two teenage sons, faces being made homeless as there are no properties available to rent.
Tia said: “My landlady is selling up due to the rise in house prices, which I understand. “We were given six months notice in November. I have been checking online every day to no avail and have applied for housing through Homechoice.
I was first put in the Band E priority category, however I was told to let them know when I was going to be made homeless within 52 days.
“I have also in the last two weeks been diagnosed with Crohn’s so I have told housing the change of situation plus the fact we are 52 days away from being made homeless.
“I received an email saying due to unprecedented volumes of applications it can take up to 28 days to update my claim. “Therefore I will be two weeks away from being made homeless with my husband, two children and my dog.
I really don’t know what I can do. “On (property website) Rightmove there is one property available in Newquay to rent, which is more than £2,000 a month.
“If you go on the estate agents’ websites they have properties that have already been let so it looks like there are properties, but there aren’t.
“My husband has lived in Newquay for 31 years and myself for 18 years. My sons are 17 this month and 13 and have lived their whole lives in Newquay and go to Newquay Tretherras.
“A property came up came up on Homechoice last week and within a few hours there were more than 50 applicants so we have no chance.”
Case Study: Room to Let
Charlie Howard is dreading offering the accommodation he has available for rent. Charlie said: “I recently put a post up for a single-room annexe at about 8pm and by 10am the next morning I had 76 requests.
“I stated single female preferred, no DSS but I had families, couples, men, people with pets all message. All saying how desperate they are to find a place.
After all the requests I had to turn the post off as it was getting too much. “I need to advertise again soon, this time just a room, but I’m dreading it.
I have looked to see what’s about and there is nothing. It’s really sad. “Gone are the days of windows being filled with adverts for rooms for rent.
I think with so many unemployed this past year due to covid and getting into debt, renting privately is going to be impossible with the credit checks.
“If people are single, living in a house with spare rooms but claiming Universal Credit, they financially end up worse off.
“A few months ago I rented out my spare room but Universal Credit saw it as income and removed what I got from my money. Yet I still had to cover the other person’s council tax and utilities so I ended up better off not renting it out. It’s madness.”