With rental prices soaring, a South Hams family have found themselves homeless for the second time after their landlords put their home up for sale – and with a hotel room in Plymouth, the only available place where they could move in.
Gemma Marshall, her husband David, their two children – Jacob, 10, and Phoebe, 7 – found themselves contemplating the daunting prospect of leaving the area and finding new schools for their children.
The only room they were offered was in a hotel in Plymouth – an offer they rejected as they did not want to leave Kingsbridge – the town Gemma went to school in, having grown up in Salcombe.
The family of four have been forced to move in, with Gemma’s parents essentially left homeless due to the housing crisis.
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However, at the end of 2021 the family were able to secure one of the newly built affordable rental homes in Applegate Park in Kingsbridge, and they are being touted as a success story for how the council’s new homeless strategy effectively prevents and relieves homelessness. in the zone.
Gemma, 38, who works in the pastoral support team at a local school, said: ‘We have rented privately since we both left university and over the past four years we have been forced to move twice after the landlords served us Section 21 notices.
“The last one came just before Christmas last year and we couldn’t find any affordable place. The competition was intense and the rents charged were incredibly high.
“It was a very difficult time for us, with nowhere to live and the only accommodation we were offered was a hotel room in Plymouth.
“So the only option we had was to move in with my parents and we used that time to bid on countless houses on the Devon Homechoice register in the hope of finding a suitable place.
“Then came the best news we could have ever imagined. We were accepted for one of LiveWest’s affordable rental homes in a new development in Kingsbridge. It was beyond our wildest dreams.
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The three-bedroom house means that Jacob and Phoebe have their own bedrooms and will be able to stay at their current schools.
Gemma added: “I still can’t believe it. I pinch myself again. It truly feels like the dawn of a new era for our family.
“We now have stable accommodation and we don’t have to live in fear of being asked to leave.
“The kids love having their own room because they’ve been sharing rooms for a year.
“The house is amazing. The finish is really good, they are really warm and the insulation is fantastic. The high end finish really tops it all off and we have lovely open countryside views.
“I grew up in Salcombe but gave up hope of being able to afford a home a long time ago.
“Many people in this region work in shops and businesses associated with tourism and therefore the wages are not sufficient to enter the housing market.”
Cllr Judy Pearce, Executive Member of South Hams District Housing Council, said: ‘Hearing Gemma’s story really brings to life what we are striving to achieve – we are working hard with our partners to ensure that more of local people can afford to live in the communities they love.
“When we hear words like that, it really reminds us of how much of a difference we can make to local people. We will continue to look at all options to make life in the South Hams more affordable for more people and hope we hear even more stories like the Marshall family.
The current South Hams homeless strategy now needs to be overhauled. A preliminary consultation with elected officials took place in early 2022 to discuss ways to effectively prevent and relieve homelessness in the region.
This includes working with partners to ensure supports are in place to help residents retain a rental once they have secured one. It also aims to ensure that there is enough housing of the right type available to meet the diverse needs of people at risk of homelessness.
A report, which is being submitted to the council executive, highlights that single and couple households, families and people with additional needs are all at high risk of homelessness and should be prioritized alongside the homeless. shelter.
If approved at Thursday’s executive meeting, the public consultation on the homelessness strategy will give local people an opportunity to share their views. This means that the Council can be sure that the proposed plans cover the right priorities and will meet the needs of all members of the community.
Cllr Pearce added: ‘When you hear the word homeless you automatically think of rough sleepers in our cities. Our team works closely with this group to provide support and housing options. Working with multiple agencies, this approach finds suitable long-term housing for a homeless person. It also greatly increases their chances of retaining housing and making positive life choices.
“Although not everyone chooses this offer, the combination of intensive support, outreach work and an open offer of accommodation has resulted in low numbers of rough sleepers in the district. When we last counted the homeless in November, we found two homeless people, a reduction from the seven counted three years ago.
“However, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the problem of homelessness in the South Hams. There are a large number of people in our district who do not have homes but do not sleep not on the streets – for example, couch surfers who rely on friends and family to get by.
“As a council, we are working to increase the number of properties available locally at a below market price to alleviate this problem. We are also ensuring that the needs of this group of people are highlighted in our homelessness strategy so that they remain targeted. Whether you have been homeless, at risk of homelessness, or have concerns for friends or family members who may be at risk, please take a few minutes to share your perspective during our consultation.
“We want to make sure every perspective is heard and represented so our plans meet local needs and no one is left without a roof over their head.”
In the housing crisis update report, the Committee will read that 47 new homes were completed last quarter and are now available to local families at a below market rate. This includes five affordable houses and four condominium houses in Applegate Park, Kingsbridge.
The scheme, a partnership between local independent homebuilder Devonshire Homes, social housing provider LiveWest and South Hams District Council, is now home to Gemma Marshall and her family.
James Reseigh, Neighborhoods Director for LiveWest, said: “As an organization that is really focused on providing much needed affordable housing, it has been fantastic to hear Gemma’s story.
“Applegate Park in Kingsbridge is a perfect example of where we have been able to work in partnership to rent homes below market levels and help families access safe, good quality and affordable homes in a place where they love to live in. We wish the family all the best for the future.
The draft homelessness strategy says: “For many people the term ‘homelessness’ conjures up images of ‘homelessness’, however, homelessness and the services provided by the local authority are much more complex and widespread than that. These may include people living in precarious, unsuitable or unaffordable housing, as well as people forced to leave their current accommodation, often through no fault of their own.
If agreed at the executive meeting, public consultation on the homelessness strategy will begin in February 2022.
It is expected that a final draft of the strategy will be presented in early spring, with official adoption starting in April 2022.
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