AS the sun beats down on Newquay, Cornwall, the seaside is packed with beachgoers who don’t appear to have a care in the world.
But with its ever-smartening bars and restaurants, this tourist hotspot has become a battleground in an increasingly bitter war between landlords, second home owners and priced-out locals.
Half an hour down the road is Calloose Caravan and Camping Park, where Laura Williams and her family spent six months after being evicted from their own dream beachside home of four years.
The mum of four, 35, her fisherman husband Jason, 39, and their young children aged nine, six, four and two, had been renting their three-bed house in Newlyn, Cornwall, for £750 a month.
But in September last year, their landlord told them she wanted to move in and hit them with a section 21 no-fault eviction order – then offered it for rent on the open market at £1,100 – a £350 increase.
“I doubt she ever had any intention of moving in herself – she’s got five or six other properties and they’re much more luxurious than ours was,” says Laura.
“She just wanted to take advantage of the steep rise in the rental market after lockdown because so many people wanted to move here during the pandemic.”
Cornwall has seen a massive influx of people leaving cities to enjoy its sprawling coastline since Covid struck in 2020.
House prices in the county rocketed, rising by more than 50 per cent faster than the UK average during the first year of the pandemic to £270,000. This is 13 times higher than the average local salary, £20,710, which is 20 per cent lower than that of the wider UK.
The housing crisis for locals has seen more than 100 people applying for each rented home when they come on the market, but with supply at a premium, many are falling through the cracks.
Following their eviction, the Williams family were placed on an emergency housing list by Cornwall Council.
But their new home was 25 miles from their home town of Newlyn – at a caravan and camping park.
The family of six were moved in to a three-bed static caravan at the Calloose Caravan and Camping Park in Leedstown at a cost to the taxpayer of a staggering £2,058 a month.
The off-season rental price was negotiated with the caravan park owners by Cornwall Council and Laura says her family were among 22 families rehoused at Calloose.
The families spent six months at the site, which would have cost taxpayers an estimated £270,000.
“The owners of the caravan park were raking it in,” said Laura.
“But it’s not their fault. The real problem is the lack of social housing being built in Cornwall, and probably everywhere else for that matter.
“We’ve got a ludicrous situation where more than 100 families apply for every property that comes on to the rental market now in Cornwall.
“For families like us, the idea that we’ll ever own our own property has long gone. We’d need a deposit of about £50,000 and we’ll never have that kind of money.
“It’s heartbreaking. We just have to watch house prices and rent prices go through the roof knowing we’re stuck.
“We paid the rent for our home in Newlyn ourselves. At the Leedstown caravan we paid around £180 a month for the service charges, but the council paid the rent.
“Those who complain about people getting housing benefit don’t know what it’s like to live on the other side.”
‘They’re like ghost towns – it’s tragic’
Laura, who is now living in Newlyn again with her family in temporary rented accommodation at a cost of £738 a month, added:
“The effects of escalating house prices and rents has driven most of the locals away from where they grew up because it’s become too expensive.
“You go to some of these towns now in the off-season and they’re like ghost towns. Most of the properties are owned by second homers nowadays. It’s tragic.
“There are no lights on through winter because no one’s there.
“It’s time as a society that we did things differently. There should be rules in place ensuring that there are lower rents for local people to enable them to live in their home towns.”
Back in Newquay, holidaymakers – many of them second home owners – sunbathe in the sand or take a dip in the cooling ocean.
One, who asks not to be identified, tells The Sun: “I come down here with the wife and kids whenever I can.
“We bought a second home nearby for £500,000 during lockdown because we were fed up with being coupled up in a cramped terraced house in London with a tiny garden.
“It’s absolutely beautiful here. Who wouldn’t buy somewhere in Cornwall if they could afford it?”
‘It’s been a downwards spiral’
One who couldn’t afford a first home, let alone a second, is 81-year-old Vilna, who moved to the area from Monmouth, south Wales, to be closer to her daughter.
Vilna, a great grandmother, moved into a rented chalet home in Predannack, but last year she was served a no-fault eviction order and had to move out of the dwelling.
Initially, the council moved her into a room at a Travelodge hotel in Plymouth. After a few weeks, she was found a static home at a caravan park in Halston.
“It’s been a downward spiral,” she says.
“I just wish I could live in a proper house again, but I have no way of affording the rent.
“And there’s no way I’ll ever be able to buy my own house now. I’ve got no savings and everything’s getting more expensive every day thanks to second homers and the lack of social housing.”
‘We’re totally drained – it’s been terrible’
Builder Scott Richards, 29, moved into a rented cottage in his hometown of Newquay with his girlfriend 18 months ago, but the pair were handed eviction papers after just six months.
He said: “We were renting a little two-bed cottage that fronted on to the road, so there was no garden.
“The cottage cost us £850 a month but in May last year we were told we would be evicted and had to be out just before Christmas.
“We were shocked, but the lady who owned the cottage had decided she wanted to sell it, so we had no choice.
“There was nowhere else to rent. We looked at dozens of properties, but most were out of our reach because they were just too expensive.
“Some landlords were asking rents in the region of £1,200 to £1,400 a month for the same sort of property we’d been living in and some even wanted six months rent in advance.
“In the end, we were lucky to find somewhere just before we were due to be evicted but we couldn’t move in until January, a month after we were due to go. Then, fortunately, out landlady allowed us an extension of a month so we could bridge the gap.
“But the worry we have been through has left me and my partner, Lisa, totally drained.
“It’s been a terrible experience, and we feel so sorry for the many many people who end up with nowhere to go. Many have ended up in emergency accommodation.”
The Sun has contacted Cornwall Council for comment.