Student Euan Trower, 16, lives near Stokeinteignhead and studies in Exeter:
“With all the political parties targeting young potential voters, I, as a 16-year-old college student, am a key target for the next election. One of the key issues right now is housing. There simply aren’t enough houses to go around. All the parties are promising to build more houses and to relax planning laws for councils in rural areas. But does it solve the problem?
Simply concreting over England’s green and pleasant lands – isn’t going to solve a national crisis. The South West is a prominent victim of these failed policies with over development dividing and destroying both rural and urban communities. In his book ‘The Death of Rural England’, Professor Alun Howkins says that, “During the last century, the countryside has changed absolutely fundamentally”. Large housing developments without the necessary infrastructure to support these extra people mean pretty villages and market towns are reduced to an urban sprawl of poorly built suburbs.
The economic arguments for these policies are that it reduces the demand for housing and that it encourages local economic growth. Both of these are false.
The demand for housing, especially in rural areas, is down to the sickening number of second homes which is killing off the local way of life. A survey in 2011 showed that there were 4000 second homes in the South Hams alone. The Influx of people coming for “a slice of country life” is driving up house prices and driving out local people. The same survey showed that in 2010, the house-wage affordability ratio for Devon was 2.52 points above the rest of England, with that gap expected to rise. Farmer’s barns, the old mill, the old bakery, the old shop, the old forge, they’ve all been converted into houses, many of them only lived in for half the year.
As for those who argue this promotes local economic growth, oh no it doesn’t. While there will be a short-term demand for skilled tradesmen, something of which we have very few, the South West is a low skill low wage economy, so where are the jobs for these new home owners to go too?
So with development even proposed for the beautiful market town of Moretonhampstead, perhaps the way to deal with this growing crisis is not to try and rapidly increase the nation’s housing stock but rather to fairly distribute the houses we already have. The government should also look to drastically reform the way we rent property while any new developments should be very carefully assessed to reduce the impact on the local area to an absolute minimum. In essence, rather than building houses, developers must build communities.
And it takes all sorts to make a community, not just the privileged few.”