To B&B or not to B&B?


I live in the Citadel and have very often thought how nice it would be if more permanent families were to live here.  Sometimes in the winter most houses are blacked out with no families and no tenants or B&B takers. So that is very sad and does not create what might be called a community.

So does Rye want to do a St Ives?

Too pretty for its own good and absolutely chockablock with second / holiday homes and houses to let, St Ives took a residents’ vote which lead the council to take the unusual step of banning new builds from being sold to buyers who were not full time residents of the town. This was verified by children being registered into local schools; signing up with the local doctor’s surgery; putting their names down on the electoral roll.

However, a bit like Rye, new houses accounted for a very small percentage of houses sold in the town. The effect on the wider market has been negligible, and agents insist the regulations are hampering supply, saying: “It’s all too little too late. The policy is very idealistic and policies do not work in the real world. Business developers are not going to develop and investors are not going to invest.”

Another local agent agreed the policy was too late, and had had the reverse effect to what the council wanted. Second home buyers have not been put off and are simply buying existing houses in St Ives. Last year 32% of properties sold went to to outsiders.

I have thought long and hard about this first-world problem, and also have canvassed a lot of opinion. We all agree that we would like to have more young and old families living and working in Rye, but the employment possibilities are slim, and the journey to London is not great, so our young do leave, very sadly.

Also, the minute you place this “problem” on yourself or your family, the idea that you cannot invest your hard earned cash just as you wish, and having done that, you can not do what you want with your own property, the dichotomy takes on a different hue.

So either we can be told what we can or cannot do by local councils, or we can celebrate that fact that we still just about live in a free country.

I don’t know really and truly what I think. What do you think?

Image Credits: Col Everett .

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  1. It is not ‘the Citadel.’ Rye is an ancient town. 100 years from now, it will likely be filled with families. For now, it is older people and a place for people to ‘escape.’ Lewes is very family-oriented. The High Street somewhat reflects this eg higher-end children’s shoes and clothes, there is now a play centre. Lewes has lost its working High Street. Suggest to organisers of all the fabulous events held in Rye, to have a section dedicated to children – eg introduce instruments to children during the Jazz festival. Why not organise something yourself? As for housing and employment, this plagues other cities and countries, including Prague. I bet if you decide to organise something, you will have the full support of Rye. It’s that kind of place.

  2. Empty second homes and insufficient house building is a Government problem which needs legislation. Empty houses change the character of towns. Residents leave and the town loses schools, hospitals, shops, community centres and local people as they cannot afford to buy houses. As ever, it is all about money.

    • I agree wholeheartedly with your comments and have voiced my opinion on Mrs Hart’s feature, saying much the same.

  3. Thank you for your article Col. You say this is a first world problem – it is not. Housing is a fundamental human right, because it is key to human well-being and provides a foundation for other rights, including rights to health, education, water and sanitation, freedom of association and freedom of expression, and the right to life itself. Empty homes, second homes, holiday let homes, under occupied homes all directly contribute to denying others a first and only home.
    I have written which really just touches on the subject. The situation we find ourselves in, it is a political choice, it is by no means inevitable. As you have found, local authorities are very restricted in what they can do without changes to Government policy. The problems are substantially due to wealth inequality, which the Government does little if anything to redress. Progressive reforms to the tax system combined with wealth tax would go a long way in addressing many of these issues, but there seems no appetite for that, sadly.

  4. Rye had a housing problem long before this government came to power, in fact it’s hard to remember when it didn’t have one.
    There was an anti Valley Park movement, obviously from those already in their homes but the social housing that was built was welcomed by those desperate for somewhere to live.
    Most of the empty houses in Rye are beyond the reach of most local people so it doesn’t make that much difference whether they are empty or not.

  5. I agree with Dom’s opening proposition, and so I’m moved to comment on Col’s closing question about ‘freedom’. Freedom for some and not for others, is no kind of freedom. The broader question is about the limits of government intervention. That tension between intervening and leaving well alone is at the heart of Liberalism, and there comes a point where the market cannot solve the problem. I think we all recognise that, which is why there’s broad consensus on the need to regulate the market in second homes and holiday lets, and to build. Building new homes relies on a robust, skilled building industry, and upon a fair market in land. Local authorities need more powers to raise budgets and to build, and as I’m sure Dom would agree, they also need to be properly insulated.

  6. I would welcome a change in government policy, similar to that that they have in Wales where by only a percentage of the housing available in any particular area can be Air B & B or similar.
    The housing crisis is such that a lot families even with 2 adults working cannot afford the private rents, such is the demand and not just the citadel rents.
    RDC are governed by central government policy so lets see what our MP’s could do in bringing this to national attention. Fair distribution of available housing is essential. A tourist town cannot survive if there is not a local work force to feed them.

    • Hear, hear. We have exactly the same issues in Hastings Old Town and it’s unfair that families born and raised in this area cannot afford to buy or rent to stay here.


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