Holiday lets have eaten the heart out of town

I’ve just heard that house prices in Whitstable are up by 16% and that the average price is now over £350,000.

Isn’t that crazy? How can people afford to buy a house?

My son, who was brought up in Whitstable, can’t afford to live here. Most people I know can’t afford to live here.

If you didn’t buy your house before the property boom, then it’s highly unlikely that you could afford one now: unless you’re a celebrity, a hedge fund manager, or a property tycoon.

Slowly but surely people with ordinary jobs are being driven out. Postal workers, refuse collectors, shop assistants: none of us will be able to live here. We’ll have to commute.

Either that, or the incomers will have to deliver their own mail, collect their own rubbish and serve themselves in the shops.

As a postal worker I’m acutely aware that many houses in the town are second homes or holiday lets. Airbnb have taken over whole streets.

There are are certain roads in Whitstable where you hardly see anyone from one month to the next. It’s getting insane.

In case you don’t know: Airbnb is a website.

It was set up for people to let their spare rooms as bed and breakfast accommodation. It’s called Airbnb because it was originally very down market. An air bed in your living room would suffice.

Aimed at young people and backpackers, it offered affordable accommodation for people from all over the world. It has turned into a global empire.

In order to classify as a B’n’B you only have to make a few breakfast things available to your guests. A packet or cornflakes, a bottle of milk and some teabags will do. After that you can charge what you like.

Prices range from around £50 a night to over £150. There are more than 350 Whitstable houses available on the website, including some of our most characteristic and recognisable cottages.

What this has done is to have eaten the heart out of Whitstable. Whitstable people don’t live here any more. The town is full of celebrities and tourists taking photos of each other, each thinking that the other represents the local colour.

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From The Whitstable Gazette, 01/06/2017

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