The Isle of Wight battle with homelessness
Many Isle of Wight families are facing homelessness next year while the island is a home to thousands of vacant properties and secondary homes.
According to the most recent census, there were 8,700 secondary homes and vacant properties on the island.
The previous census 2011, showed that the IOW had rate of 47 people per 1,000 residents with second addresses who do not normally reside on the Island. 23 of these people owned secondary address for holiday purposes. This is the highest figure across the whole southeast and puts the Isle of Wight in the 19th place on England table (with 292 entrances).
Based on the Isle of Wight Council planning strategy, their own data on secondary homes is particularly patchy due to the lack of requirement for owners to register their property as secondary home and acknowledge that their own findings underestimate the matter.
2021 census also revealed that London boroughs were most likely to indicate they own holiday homes. 5.75% of Kensington and Chelsea residents indicated they have holiday homes, following shortly by City of London with 3.80% of residents. Many of them choosing to call the Island their holiday destination.
All of this comes with surging housing crisis that is swooping the Island. In last figures reported by the Isle of Wight council, housing registry had approximately 2,473 households listed as looking for permanent home. 209 of these households were registered to be already homeless or rough sleeping and 210 were threatened with homelessness. 735 households included needed urgently a new home due to medical and welfare reasons and the other 779 households were living in unsatisfactory housing conditions. This sum figure is a 37% increase since 2016, when the council updated the statistic after introducing ‘Local Connection’ policy. It is worth noting, this only considers applicants and therefore the actual figure of adults and children who are currently urgently looking for better or permanent accommodation are most likely higher. With the recent landslip occurring near Ventnor area and flooding in number of locations on the island, more families are most likely facing housing insecurities.
Nationally, it is estimated that 210,290 households are currently battling homelessness in 2023 (based on the most recent dataset update from 30th of June 2023). According to the charity, Shelter, this estimate is also most likely underestimated as some types of homelessness, such as sofa-surging, go entirely undocumented.
Many households on the Island choose to opt for unconventional living situations to help with the surging cost of living and low number of available rental properties.
A resident of the Island who has recently purchased a house, said that due to his low income and job offering him a caravan, he has spent number of years living on his work site.
“I lived in a caravan because it was offered with the job I had at the time, if I had rented a flat or house at that time, I wouldn't have had the money for a deposit,” he says.
According to him, having a partner was a significant financial help for securing a home on the island.
“If I was a single man then there would be no way I could even rent a place let alone buy one, so having my partner has definitely helped us in buying a house,” said the resident.
Another interviewed family on the Isle of Wight needed to add a conservatory to their house structure due to their child’s disability, as they struggled to afford a more accessible property. This extension was funded with the help of the disability benefits the family receives for the child.
Similar findings were noticed by the Isle of Wight council in their housing strategy in which number of residents pointed out that the island does not have many affordable properties which are suitable for their families’ needs and said that it causes them stress.
One of the accounts sent to the council reads:
“Part of my family where both parents work in the community - in school and being a crew member of the local Lifeboat Station - have a real problem with housing and have been on the housing list for 4 years now. They have been brought up on the island, but due to being on low incomes have ended up living in 'temporary accommodation' for the last 4 years.”
Others have pointed out that recent 4–6-bedroom properties in some areas on the Island were being sold for approximately £400-500k. Majority of the buyers were retirees from outside of the Island and secondary homeowners.
It was recently reported that the Isle of Wight council wants to minimise households living in temporary accommodations, such as caravans and hotels, by next Spring. They have pointed out that since the pandemic, 80% of privately rented stock has become unavailable for long-term lets and those that are available are often expensive for the locals. As a result, the Isle of Wight council wants to put tax premiums on secondary homes from April and hopes that this will help the community.