Whitstable Housing: Neighbours

neighboursBad neighbours make situation impossible

A friend of mine has been having trouble with his neighbours. They moved in about two years ago. First of all they were just annoying. There were so many of them, parents and grandparents and a multitude of siblings and their spouses, plus children. A real extended family.

They were always coming in and out, shouting and banging doors. They did everything at full volume, using the foulest of language.

Later they became more aggressive. They began threatening him. They smashed his front window and wedged something against his back door so that he couldn’t get out. They nailed his back gate shut and threw a bucket of rotten eggs over him.

Well these were assaults, weren’t they? My friend became frightened and phoned the police.

It took over two and a half hours for the police to arrive. When they eventually did get there they said there was nothing they could do.

My friend has felt trapped ever since. He is a disabled person. He has epilepsy and is on medication. Stress and anxiety tend to bring on his fits. He daren’t go out in case he meets them and they start the abuse again.

He feels like a prisoner in his own home, always having to check before he can step out of his front door. He has been forced to get a CCTV system, which has put him into debt.

He has lived here for 21 years and never had trouble with his neighbours before. Now here’s the thing: he lives on one of the council estates. He’s complained to the council and asked to be moved, but there is no available housing.

He’s tried getting a house swap, but no one has shown any interest. What this brings to light is the state of council housing in the UK today. Only the very vulnerable, and the most anti-social, are being housed: hence the impossible situation my friend finds himself in, as an epileptic, prone to anxiety, living next door to violent bullies.

Whatever happened to the “homes fits for heroes” of the post-war period, that’s what I’d like to know? We sold them off for a mess of pottage.


From The Whitstable Gazette 21/09/17

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Whitstable People: Ritchie Harnett

House prices are driving people away.

People on Island Wall, Nelson Road and the adjoining streets, will have noticed that they have a new postman.

This is because their old postman, Ritchie Harnett, has moved to Grimsby.

There’s been a lot of talk about house prices in the paper recently. Ritchie’s move is the perfect illustration of that.

He has a growing family to care for and needed more space. He simply couldn’t afford to get a bigger house in the town on his income.

His family have lived in Whitstable for generations. He was born and brought up here. He went to school here. His relatives are here. His roots are here. Everything he has ever known is in this town.

On the other hand, most of his contemporaries have long since moved away. They too, like him, couldn’t afford to live in Whitstable any longer.

It’s a five hour drive from Whitstable to Grimsby, which means it will be very difficult for his Mum and Dad to get to see their grandkids.

On the plus side: the house he has brought up there is four times the size of the one he lived in in Whitstable, with a garden five times the size. He says his new kitchen is the size of the ground floor of his old house.

Also, his new office is within walking distance of his house, unlike the Whitstable office, which is eight miles away.

He probably never would have wanted to move had the delivery office not been shifted to Canterbury.

Ritchie was very popular with his customers. I spoke to one of them who told me they trusted him implicitly. There was even a petition going around trying to persuade him to stay.

Let me assure them: their new postman is just as trustworthy and reliable, just as honest as Ritchie, and will serve them just as well.

Nevertheless it is a measure of everything that is wrong in this world that postal workers and other people doing essential jobs, such as Ritchie, can no longer afford to live in the towns where they were brought up.

There is a chronic shortage of affordable housing in the UK, something which needs to be urgently addressed.


From The Whitstable Gazette 10/08/17

The editor welcomes letters on any topical subject, but reserves the right to edit them. Letters must include your name and address even when emailed and a daytime telephone number.

Send letters to: The Editor, 5-8 Boorman Way, Estuary View Business Park, Whitstable, Kent CT5 3SE

fax: 01227 762415

email: kentishgazette@thekmgroup.co.uk

website: kentishgazette.co.uk

Whitstable house prices: up by 16%

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.


From The Whitstable Gazette, 01/06/2017

The editor welcomes letters on any topical subject, but reserves the right to edit them. Letters must include your name and address even when emailed and a daytime telephone number.
Send letters to:
The Editor, 5-8 Boorman Way, Estuary View Business Park, Whitstable, Kent CT5 3SE,
fax 01227 762415
email kentishgazette@thekmgroup.co.uk

Whitstable Views: House prices in Whitstable

New York Times

13189896_f260Once again Whitstable has featured in the New York Times, with a story about Beacon House on Tankerton Beach in its Great Homes and Destinations section. The previous occasion was in 2009 when the town appeared in the Travel section as “A Day Out From London”.

Then it concentrated on restaurants. This time it focuses on house prices.

The only quote from someone other than the owners is from Paul Jordan of Ward & Partners who tells us that property prices in the area have continued to rise in recent years, adding that “in comparison to London prices they would look very good value.”

So what does that mean? Are we to expect an influx of wealthy New Yorkers now to add to the boho Londoners who have already colonised whole segments of the town?

I know from my job as a postal worker that there are certain streets which are virtually empty in the winter months, in which the majority of houses are second homes.

Not that I’m complaining about Katrina Brown and James Drury’s ownership of Beacon House. It is a beautiful place to live.

As it says in the article, it was “unmortgageable and uninsurable” when they bought it, being only 15 metres from the sea at high tide. It needed a wealthy family to bring it back to life.

Who hasn’t walked passed the cottage on a stroll along the shore and not imagined what it would be like to live there?


The problem is that children brought up in Whitstable are consistently being forced to move somewhere else. Not only are house prices and rents unimaginably high, but there aren’t any decent jobs available.

How many people working at Tesco are able to sustain the kind of mortgage that living in Whitstable requires these days?

This can’t be good for the life of the town.

It’s great that our town attracts artistic people like Ms Brown and Mr Drury, along with celebrities and musicians and other creative types, but without ordinary people to help give it perspective, maybe Whitstable is in danger of drowning in its own pretentiousness.

Whitstable Views: Our nation needs new council houses

Housing crisis UK

I was looking through some of my old articles last week. There was one about my attempts to find a flat in Whitstable a few years back.

I went to look at a studio flat on Tankerton Road. It consisted of one room with barely enough space to fit a double bed in, a stair cupboard with a shower and toilet squeezed underneath, and a Formica top meant to represent the kitchen.

“Living there would make you go insane,” I wrote. “A man could end up committing suicide in a flat like that.” The rent was £275 per calendar month. This was nearly ten years ago now.

The cost of flats has continued to rise since then. The cheapest I’ve seen recently is £650 a month for a one-bedroom flat. Prices go up steadily after that, to approaching £2,000 a month.

There is a housing crisis, not only in our town, but throughout the country.

It derives directly from the right to buy policy instituted by the Tories back in the eighties, as a way of breaking up the old Labour supporting council estates. The responsibility for housing was handed over to the private sector. Almost no council house building has taken place in the intervening years.

Meanwhile much of the old council housing stock has reappeared on the market as buy to let property. A recent study by the National Housing Federation has shown that the number of people living in private rented accomodation and claiming Housing Benefit has risen by 42% since 2008.

Building council houses

The cost to the taxpayer of directly supplementing private landlords through the Housing Benefit system was £9.3 billion last year. Much of that has gone directly into the pockets of some of the most wealthy people in our country. Ten members of the Sunday Times Rich List received a total of £2,032,000 in Housing Benefit in 2014.

Jeremy Corbyn has promised a massive programme of council house building to begin addressing the housing shortage.

People ask how we can afford this? But look at the figures: how can we afford not to?

Whitstable Accommodation: Cost of flats in Whitstable

Rooms to rent

This time last year I was looking for a flat.

I wonder how many readers have been in the same position recently?

I was shocked at how expensive they have become, and how little you get for your money.

I answered an advert in a shop window. It said “Rooms From £65 Per Week”. I spoke to the landlady over the phone who told me that the cheaper rooms were all gone. “We have one room left, the largest, for £85 per week,” she said.

So I went to have a look. The house was nice, although it would involve sharing with strangers. There was a large lounge, a kitchen, two designated cupboards for food and crockery, and the use of half a fridge. There was also a conservatory and a modest sized garden. It was neat and clean, and I could almost imagine living there.

Until I saw the room that is. It was maybe ten foot by twelve foot, with a single bed in it. £85 per week for a room the size of my Mum’s bathroom.

I asked if there was a phone. The landlady scoffed noisily. “We don’t want to supplement your phone bill,” she said. “What do you want it for? Broadband? You’ll just have to get one of those mobile systems.”

I said, “It’s too expensive. In fact it’s way over the top,” and the landlady replied, “Good luck if you’re looking for places around here.”

She meant “in Whitstable” as the town has become increasingly popular of late.

The joke here is that this was an ex-council house. So this is what has become of the Right to Buy policy instituted by the Tories, and continued with such relish by the wealth-infected Labour Party: it has allowed latter day Rachmans to buy up our housing stock, to divide it up into flats and rooms, and to reap a fat profit from what used to be affordable housing.

Studio flat

The next place I looked at was a “studio flat” for £275 per calendar month.

I’d seen a studio flat before, while on holiday in Tenerife, so I was quite optimistic. It had seemed a civilised and comfortable place to live.

Nothing like the nasty little rat-hole that the man from the estate agents showed me. As he took me up the bleak, shared staircase he warned me, “It’s very small.” But he added, “He’s a good landlord.”

I was shocked. It was a box-room, little bigger than the bedroom I had seen earlier, but with a kitchen space squeezed into it. The “kitchen” – that’s far too homely a word for what I was seeing – consisted of a stainless steel sink, an electric water heater, and some Formica work-surfaces.

There was a window which looked out over a car-park, and a walk-in cupboard which housed a toilet and a shower.

And that was it. No more. That’s what £275 a calendar month will get you in Whitstable these days.

It was like being in prison. Living there would make you go insane. There was just enough room for a bed and a TV. You could never have guests or entertain friends. You could never bring a woman home to wine her and dine her. You would inevitably fall deeper and deeper into loneliness and despair.

I think a man could end up committing suicide in a flat like that.

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