It’s a good question.
Some people answer ‘as many as possible: we have a list, just get building.’ Other people say ‘not nearly that many, we are not some overspill dormitory for Falmouth and Penryn.’
The starting point the Homechoice Register. This is a list held by Cornwall Council, showing everyone who is looking for an affordable home to rent. The number of people on the Register varies from time to time.
The latest figure is 42 (which will appeal to readers of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). So, some would say ‘We need to build 42 houses now’
But let’s just look behind that headline figure.
To get onto the Register, a person/family/couple has to qualify by any one of a series of criteria:
- Currently lives within the Parish and has done so continuously for the past 3 years
- Has lived in the parish continuously for 5 years at some stage in the past
- Currently works in permanent employment in the Parish and has been so continuously for the past 3 years and this employment is not of a casual nature
Some people feel that the last one is not a real ‘local connection’ with the Parish and that, as businesses expand, so the villages will have to expand, and their character will be lost. Some people ‘need’ to be near their place of work. However, think of those people working shifts in shops, for instance. They may not be doing an eight-hour day but still need to be within easy reach of their place of work.
That is not the end of the story. People on the Register are then put in an order of priority (see below). The figures in brackets show how many people are currently on the Register. You will quickly see that there are 15 people (read ‘families’) in real need. The Register breaks these down by number of bedrooms but we will not go into this here, to keep things simple.
- Those in exceptional need, urgent welfare, in need of adapted property or downsizing (2)
- High priority welfare, lack of bedrooms, disrepair, need to move-on or redevelopment programme (0)
- Statutory or other homelessness, medium level of welfare, lack of bedrooms, proximity to provide support or work/training (9)
- Currently living in shared facilities, children living in flats (4)
- All other groups (27)
As one consultee recently said: ‘I am sleeping on the sofa downstairs because of a lack of bedrooms. I moved into an affordable house a few years ago but the family has outgrown our accommodation.’ Now that is tough for any family and there can be no doubt about their ‘need’. Let’s just hope they are included in the (9) above (category 3).
The big figure is 27 in ‘All other groups’. These are people who can claim some connection with the Parish according to the criteria above. ‘Some connection’: it is very possible that up to half these families will also have ‘connections’ with other parishes nearby. If so, then they may be on lists in two parishes, although understandably they would probably rather live in this one.
So, the figure of 42 is not a simple headline.
The other thing is that the Homechoice Register never gets to zero. If we built 42 houses tomorrow and if – and it is a very big if – all the 42 families on the list were able to move in immediately, the Register would quickly fill up again. ‘There are houses in Mylor Parish, find a reason to get on the list …’ would go round the county and the Parish would be under pressure once again.
If the 42 were not able to move in immediately then Cornwall Council would simply offer any empty homes to other people in Cornwall whether they had a connection with the Parish or not.
So timing is important. A steady programme of building is more important than a big bang. The trick is to get the pace right: too many new houses and you get over-development, loss of identity and destruction of our beautiful countryside, and the Parish will be turned into a sprawling mass. Too few and the pressure will build up, as it has at the moment.
The NDP recognised this. It has taken into account the result of an all-household survey which said that the community as a whole believed that a growth of about 30 houses over ten years would be a reasonable target. It recommended an initial 18 new affordable houses for Mylor Bridge and 12 for Flushing which would more than provide for those in immediate need (the top four categories). The Tregew Meadows development is in line with this sort of target so thank goodness it is under way.
Who gets new affordable homes and who decides?
The allocation of new homes is done by the developer/landlord. A developer/landlord, whether Cornwall Council, a Community Land Trust or Housing Association is usually very willing to work with the Parish Council to support those with the ‘best’ claim.
So, the Parish Council will play a pivotal role in advising Cornwall Council on what houses should go into Tregew Meadows extension – how many one, two, three bedrooms – and who should get first option.
Some people have argued that a development in Flushing might be ‘filled up with people from Mylor Bridge’ and that is an argument for a development in both villages at the same time. That is a matter for the Parish Council to decide. The NDP looks at the whole Parish.
To build say 15 new houses in Flushing at the same time as 15 new houses in Mylor Bridge would almost certainly fall into the trap outlined above, providing an open door to over-development and the importation of lots of people from outside the parish.
Nobody is against affordable housing – or perhaps at least only a very small minority – but the trick will be to get the pace right. Nil is not right; nor is 42. It is the judgement of Solomon.
There are some answers to some other questions on our FAQ page:
- Are Mylor Bridge residents trying to stop affordable housing being built?
- Will new affordable homes in Flushing be delayed?
- I have been told that unless houses are all built at the same time, Flushing residents will lose out to people from Mylor Bridge
- Surely building all the sites at once is better because all the villagers who need affordable homes will get them at the same time.