In my village this week, another house stands empty. A lovely, limestone, small 2 bedroom cottage, perfect as a first time buyers home.
Except it will never fall into the hands of someone like me.
My village in the Derbyshire Dales, as well as all the surrounding villages I know, are filled with empty houses. Most are holiday homes. The rest belong to frail, elderly people who either spend the majority of their time in care homes/hospital/hospice or have carers come round four times a day to look after them.
Meanwhile these villages are dying. Shops and pubs are long gone, schools and nurseries close down due to lack of young people, and soon these beautiful little hamlets will cease to exist.
I’m really very lucky.
I rent a small cottage in one of these villages. It was such an incredible stroke of luck that we got it. It’s a mere half a mile from my other half’s family farm and the rent is reasonable. That’s because our land lady owns the local grand country Hall and surrounding land, and she specifically wanted more young people in the village.
Otherwise we could only afford to live perhaps 15 miles away, in a 1 bedroom flat, paying more rent, and the farm would most likely come to an end.
I love houses. I enjoy nosing at other peoples and dreaming of my own home. So I spend a lot of time looking at properties online.
There’s no way I’d ever be able to afford to buy a house within ten miles, at least, of where I live now.
Of the remaining houses which aren’t empty in our village, several are up for sale. They have been for years. They still will be for years to come.
That’s because they’re so unbelievably fucking expensive.
In my area, and a fifteen mile radius (between where I live and the place I work) if I wanted to buy a teeny tiny, 2 bed cottage, with no drive and no garden, which was an absolute shit tip, I’d be looking at £300,000.
Now I have a fair amount of savings tucked away, and my other half has even more. I also earn a good income.
There’s no way on earth we’d be able to afford to buy anything like that.
Trust me, I know. Last year a house came up for sale a mere 3 miles from the farm. It was on a very loud and busy main road (a trucker route between quarries) but it was reasonably affordable at £140,000. We were stunned that it was so cheap (despite needing full renovation, had never had central heating, need new roof and was full of damp, that’s still a bargain) so viewed it, and went to a few banks to see if we were eligible for a mortgage.
Even with a pretty whopping deposit we were turned down.
Eventually that house sold for over the asking price to a property development company. It still stands empty and rotting today.
So my query is this… who the fuck do the banks/estate agents/home owners think can afford to buy all these properties?
Okay I know how the housing market works. If you were a baby boomer or the generation below (my parents) you could afford to buy a house, and over the years they’ve increased in value and now they can borrow a little more and more and move up, valuewise.
My issue is… what the hell happens when all these people die?
The likes of myself can’t afford to buy anything in the region of the property my parents own, and never will.
So will all these houses just stand empty, one by one, while my generation rents or flat shares or lives with their parents?
Once our parents die, because of inheritance tax and siblings, it’s not like we’ll be able to just live in our parents homes.
Then comes the problem with holiday homes. Any property even remotely small and affordable looking is snapped up by the likes of wealthy bastards like my parents generation who, not content with owning just one home, buy the rest of them out in rural areas and come to stay and enjoy the beautiful farmland for two weekends per year.
My local area is swamped with Air BnB properties. Even more perfectly good fucking houses stood empty and unloved.
Me and the other half even looked into building a house.
Seeing as we’re tied to the area because of his job, we thought why not build a house. His parents own a lot of land, after all.
However we live in the Peak District National Park. An area which is governed by people who don’t live anywhere near it, who decide if you can build a front porch, conservatory or put up a garden shed. And the answer is almost always a resounding no.
After all, these all mighty powerful people who don’t live or work here want to preserve the area like it was decades ago, when the national park was created. That’s with no thought as to how the people who farm the land and work in the area supporting the local economy are actually gonna live here.
One of the neighbouring farms to us did actually manage to build themselves a house. This was very rare indeed. This was with an agricultural tie on the planning permission, and it took them almost ten years to get planning permission. That’s ten years of living in a caravan.
That’s because you can’t rent somewhere else and apply for planning permission, no, you have to be on your knees and desperate before they’ll even look at your application. They want you to really really need it.
Even if they finally do say yes, they then tell you how many rooms you can have, how big those rooms are, what stone to build your house with, how it looks, what your roof looks like and even what fucking colour to paint your door and window frames.
It’s called Peak Park green and everyone must have it the same and buy it from them. Have you ever watched The Prisoner? It’s just like that.
So if we want to attempt to build a house, on our own land, with our own money, we’d have to give up renting out cottage and live in a static caravan (which you also need planning permission for!!) for ten years, just waiting for some luck, similar to hoping you’ll win the lottery.
It’s all just a bit daft, don’t you think?