PEMBROKESHIRE does not have a shortage of housing.
Far from it, readers.
Pembrokeshire has more than enough houses to provide every one of its residents with a home. In the last decade or so, Pembrokeshire has had many houses built in it.
There are houses and infill developments everywhere you look in our County.
All those green fields and empty spaces that used to be in and around our towns are now crowded with cookie-cutter houses bought off an uninspired architect’s drawing board and built to a price.
Look around you, readers.
The areas you once ran around while you were children, on which animals grazed, or upon which you played rugby, football, or cricket (other sports are available, but they don’t count) are now little rabbit warrens of concrete and brick.
Pembrokeshire is not short of houses.
It is, however, short of the right kind of house.
Affordable ones that match the needs of changing family dynamics and the realities of modern working.
It is pointless moaning about houses changing hands for a million in Tenby. Those houses were always beyond the means of local families on average incomes.
Badger spoke to Bob Kilmister, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance, when Cwm-yr-Eglwys was in the news.
Cllr Kilmister pointed out holiday homes and second homes have been the norm in parts of Pembrokeshire for many years.
The houses in that tiny and pretty seaside village have been empty for large parts of the year for decades. It is not a new phenomenon, and you cannot turn back the clock’s hands to change the history of Pembrokeshire’s property market.
The existing market is already distorted and will stay distorted.
The average Pembrokeshire wage is (allegedly) £28,611.
Pause and reflect on that figure, readers. Add all the workers’ wages in Pembrokeshire together and divide by the number of working people. Statistics say the average salary is £28,611.
When Badger saw that figure, his jaw fair hit the floor.
He knows there are lies, damned lies, and statistics, but th
at figure is proof that the truth is not out there.
The more realistic measure of salary in Pembrokeshire is the mode. The mode is produced when you plot salaries on a chart and look at where most salaries cluster.
Suppose you follow cricket and look at test match batsman’s averages when they’ve played over twenty tests. In that case, the biggest bunch is between 36 and 44.
Averages over that become rarer and rarer.
Almost off the chart at the far-right-hand side, in glorious isolation, is the incomparable Don Bradman (whose career test match batting average is a mind-blowing 99.94 runs per innings.
If you imagine a chart that contains someone earning £10 pw at one end and Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos at the other, you get the rough idea.
In Pembrokeshire, the full-time equivalent mode income is about £18,000.
Now, readers, let’s suppose you’re a young person in Pembrokeshire looking to get on the housing ladder.
For an affordable house to be affordable, it must be not four times the average salary – it must be four times the mode salary, the salary level at which most people are paid.
The cheapest two-bedroomed house Badger could find looking on Rightmove was a former Council house on Bush Camp for £85,000.
Four times your salary, if you’re the average worker, will still leave you short on getting a mortgage. That’s a problem compounded when the house in question is marketed as ‘an investment opportunity’ to the buy-to-let market.
Local people are not being priced out of the housing market by people buying houses they could never afford in a month of Sundays.
They are priced out by a low-skill and low-wage economy that places homeownership beyond their reach and not enough housing that they can either afford or tolerate living in.
And for those expecting a new industrial revolution to bring high-paid jobs to Pembrokeshire for people living in Pembrokeshire, pass the Dutchie by the left-hand side.
Badger has a few suggestions on how the housing problem might be tackled.
More affordable housing, not built as an afterthought, and still less as part of a vague promise to provide ‘affordable homes’ last in a development.
So, developers must build affordable homes first as a site a planning condition. That should up the quality and focus the attention.
Local connection restrictions on onward sale would be another step in the right direction.
Relaxation of planning rules relating to affordable housing development in the National Park (where shortages are the worst) is essential.
No more £300k-per-house developments in the National Park.
It’s time the Park met its obligation to keep communities alive and allow local young people to live where they grew up if that’s what they want. The needs of the people must come first.
If you’re prepared to countenance subsidised mortgages – which the UK and Welsh Governments are – it’s time to countenance subsidised rents.
Average rents in Pembrokeshire have soared way beyond those dependent on Housing Benefits or lower-paid seasonal employment. People are being forced into bedsits and
flat conversions little better than hovels because that’s all that UK law allows the Council to pay.
Fair dues where they’re due, though: that’s what Pembrokeshire’s voted for at every General Election since 2010.
As for the hard-hearted smartarses out there who think, ‘there are plenty of jobs around’, you find one that pays £28,611 a year that an eighteen-year-old can walk into after finishing College or A-Levels in Pembrokeshire when they want to stay in our County to work, live, and raise a family. You’re having a sodding laugh!
The Welsh Government has plenty of time for talking, but Pembrokeshire doesn’t have that luxury.
There’s no time machine. There’s no time left for working groups, committees, and consultations.
The time for action has long passed. All the Council and the National Park Authority can do is make the best of the powers they have to create homes for Pembrokeshire.
The Council has made a start, although WRW’s collapse will delay projects’ completions.
For the Park, such an approach will depart from its usual mimsy and whimsy. It would doubtless upset the gracious living of the few in Sunday supplement villages along St David’s Peninsula.
Badger can hear the howls of the cosily-situated and better-off at the idea of having their views spoiled and lives disturbed by the presence of children in their retirement-home -style communities.
Too bloody bad and boo-hoo.
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