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“Holiday Homes” installation by Richard Woods (Folkestone Trienniale 2017), highlighting the housing crisis in Folkestone.

Hastings fights back against rent rises

A new pressure group, Hastings Rental Health, is inviting residents to show their concerns about the housing crisis by gathering in the town centre this Saturday – 9 October. Erica Smith looks at the worrying housing statistics.

Sarah is the creator of a well-loved children’s TV show. Sian works in design and has a background in publishing. Both of them are just-ab0ut-managing to hold on to rental accommodation in Hastings.

Their hopes of finding permanent homes seem to be slipping further and further away from them. Rental problems can lead to mental health problems which is why they have decided to lobby for affordable housing in a town where local residents are being squeezed out as house prices rise and landlords sell their properties to the highest bidder or turn them in to AirBnBs.

“We want to get the message out there that insecure housing can have a devastating impact on mental health. Without housing security, planning a future becomes impossible. This is implicit in the name of our group – Hastings Rental Health.”

Sarah says, “Rents have risen by 30–40% in the last year whilst local wages are stagnant and local unemployment has doubled since last March”. She knows about the rental increases because she struggled to find somewhere to move to when her landlord decided to sell the flat that she and her partner rented. They were lucky to find another place to live in the middle of the pandemic and seriously considered moving up North as the only feasible option.

She continued, “As of January 2021 there are nearly 1500 households on HBC’s housing list and the number of empty homes collated on the Action on Empty Homes website for Hastings is 1537.”

You can visit the Action on Empty Homes website for regularly updated stats on Empty Homes and Second Homes across the UK.

The amount local councils fork out on temporary accommodation is over £1 billion nationally. Matching empty properties with people who need homes – and nurturing housing co-operatives to keep housing costs down and build communities at the same time – is a no-brainer.

The reality is that the empty properties will remain empty until property developers convert them for sale or to let at high-end prices to people who are keen to move out of London and have the financial clout to pay cash for properties, or can fork out for the large deposits that letting agencies now demand.

Sian needed to find a new place to live at the height of the pandemic. Although her landlords provided plenty of notice, her search lasted for seven months. When she was looking for somewhere else to live she was shocked at how much rents had soared, the number of  squalid properties on the market and the attitude of landlords. “One prospective slum landlord informed me he would be charging me £20 more per month ‘because women use hairdryers and cook more’!”

Hastings Rental Health has demands to make on Hastings Borough Council and national housing policy:

  • Stricter controls on Air BnBs
  • Restrictions on second homes
  • Genuinely affordable housing
  • Rent caps
  • Housing Co-ops.

The group is part of a growing movement to demand change and invites all local residents to be part of the conversation. The protest in Hastings on Saturday is part of a National Day of Action on Empty Homes which is backed by a broad collection of organisations including The Big Issue, Renters Rights London, Homes for All and Unite.

Join Hastings Rental Health campaigners at 11am on Saturday 9 October outside Cafe Nero.

You can find out more by emailing hastingsrentalhealth@gmail.com
or join the Hastings Rental Health Facebook page.
More details of the event can be found here.
If you’d like to help make banners for Saturday, there is a meeting this Wednesday at 6pm at Joyful Roots in Hatherley Road, St Leonards.

You can follow Hastings Rental Health Group on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @HGSRentalHealth 

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Posted 20:24 Sunday, Oct 3, 2021 In: Campaigns

3 Comments

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  1. CR

    DAR, no offence but can you please explain how is it fair to say that DFL’s have contributed to the price rises in housing here??
    Did they agree with the sellers of the properties that they would pay more?
    Or did the sellers or their agents decide to wack the prices up because DFL’s supposedly have loads of money?
    Or were these DFL’s, priced out of London?
    Though I’m sure some did well before they moved given London prices…
    They had the funds to buy the property, and someone wanted to sell a local property, the local agent made it known, and it sold to someone who had the funds, local or not.
    There are very many ‘investors’ local and national that have bought a shed load of property here, some quietly, some one or two, and some of them bought 10’s or hundreds of them and made a rental property business out of them.
    Then there’s the airbnb property owners, a mixed bag of all types, grown massively of late.
    Locally I think HBC have been asleep at the wheel on this for a long time, perhaps if they had invested in the housing when it was cheap, instead of industrial/office buildings, maybe there would not be such a large problem that Mr Batsford and HBC are ‘calling out’ to all property owners to rent their property!

    Nationally, our country has been obsessed with making a few quid from property thanks to the property shows and media, get rich quick psychopaths etc. and last but most importantly our successive governments, allowing this to happen and not placing restrictions early in the game.
    Both red and blue, before anyone throws a politically biased hot potato at me, are responsible and have shown no will to change it, it’s a national industry now, along with ‘financial services’.
    We’ve all been sold out by the top, and it’s up to us all to try and save it, or do the best we can with what we have.

    Just don’t ask me how, I’ve no idea sorry.

    Comment by CR — Thursday, Oct 7, 2021 @ 20:18

  2. Sian

    Hello DAR why don’t you come along & meet us on Saturday ?

    Comment by Sian — Tuesday, Oct 5, 2021 @ 13:10

  3. DAR

    Perhaps the HRH group would like to grill Cllr. Andy Batsford (responsible for housing at HBC) why he is hell-bent on building on our local green spaces (see Bulverhythe and Harrow Lane) when there are so many empty properties and more appropriate sites in the borough. Also, I don’t think implications that all landlords are avaricious, uncaring rogues is very helpful.

    Lastly, there is a housing problem nationally, but not a housing “crisis” – it’s more a population crisis caused largely by out-of-control net migration over decades. I sympathise with some of HRH group’s aims (eg. rent caps), but it is fair to say that people moving out of London (DFLs) have also contributed to the price rises in housing here. Just saying, though I haven’t got an answer to that.

    Comment by DAR — Monday, Oct 4, 2021 @ 13:11

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