Housing and the Homeless 2

Housing and the Homeless 2

15 July 2022

The 2011 census states 85% of houses are occupied by residents while current figures show this is now only 58%. This trend of increased second and vacant homes creates a challenge for people wanting to move to the island. The purchase prices are high and availability low. Read about the Lismore Community Trust’s work for affordable housing

As set out in Part 1, Lismore has a problem. While we certainly welcome visitors and often rely on them, a rise in second and/or holiday homes can suddenly make the island unsustainable. While sustainability is complex, at its most basic a community needs:

  • residents;
  • long-term secure rentals;
  • affordable homes

Lismore needs people of all ages to fill and run the school, run and use the shop, the church, the heritage centre and cafe, the hall, the fire service and ambulance, the community trust, the community bus, and several websites. Some, not the majority, are paid jobs but most are done by volunteers, some working near enough full time to keep the place running. Much of this vital work is invisible.

We also need and value visitors who support the shop, the heritage centre, all the amazing businesses and the economy generally. And it needs accommodation for visitors. While long lets are essential for islanders, they seldom suit absent owners who normally want to visit several times a year. So, a number of shorter lets are always required.

Then there is the income islanders can get from maintaining and caring for the homes of absentee owners. Often not well enough paid and with little security and nil perks. (How many of these vital folk were furloughed?) It’s a weird thing, but islanders have always been expected to put up with job insecurity unless they worked for the school, the NHS, or the Royal Mail. It’s one price of living in paradise! No. It can amount to exploitation. Or just thoughtlessness. The truth is holiday homes depend on island labour. And this is getting scarcer as anyone looking for a cleaner/carer/ gardener knows.

Some holiday homes make healthy profits but proportionately not that much stays on the island—either in the pockets of islanders or in the bank accounts of our organisations. And all donations are very welcome.

Although currently we cannot house all those in need, we are fortunate in having people of all ages who want to live here. Some new residents can afford to buy/build/restore. Sadly, many of the energetic, enterprising younger ones cannot and are pushed into leaving.

Some, of course, leave from choice. Alas, not the homeless young or the older infirm. The latter leave reluctantly because they have no family, there are not enough carers and no sheltered accommodation. The carers we have are doing a wonderful job but are stretched to the limit.

Contrary to lazy thinking, sustainability is not about the island having young people. Senior energy is just as vital and runs many shows. No, it’s about having a balance of people from 0-100+, each one invaluable. It is not good to see younger people despairing of ever finding accommodation or older people having to leave just because they are older. At the moment we see both.

This is not a problem unique to Lismore (it’s worldwide) but, because people are our most valuable resource and weave the fabric of sustainability, we need first to become aware this problem is growing and then consider how to solve it. And the Trust has certainly started already.

Part three will tell two stories: one who struggled for a long time and eventually found a home and another who will have to leave as she has failed.

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