Business as usual in Cornwall as hotels evict homeless families
Hotels in Cornwall are evicting homeless families. The council has told The Canary that it’s “not a result” of the upcoming G7 summit taking place between 11-13 June. But this doesn’t ring true.
Homelessness in Cornwall
BBC News reported that:
About 130 people living in emergency accommodation in hotels have been moved out to make way for paying customers
It said there were around 1,000 homeless people needing accommodation in Cornwall. But as Cornwall Live reported, this isn’t the true picture. It noted that:
between April and December last year a total of 1,348 households asked their council for help after being made homeless, or as they were on the brink of losing their homes. Another 990 families were owed support after being threatened with the prospect of becoming homeless.
During the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic the government gave funding to local councils to house rough sleepers. As Cornwall Live said, the region had:
As of December 31 last year, 524 households were living in temporary accommodation… including 169 families with children, and a total of 331 youngsters.
But now, some of these are homeless once more.
Nothing to see here
A spokesperson for Cornwall Council told The Canary;
The Council has faced exceptional pressures for emergency accommodation as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The number of households in temporary accommodation more than doubled in 2020 and demand continues at a high level.
While hotels in Cornwall have honoured the bookings made, the temporary (and uncertain) nature of emergency accommodation means we are unable to secure long-term bookings. Accommodation is in short supply at present – competition from the holiday market at this time of year means there is very limited availability to meet the needs of homeless households. The current demand for accommodation is therefore not a result of the forthcoming G7 summit.
But the council’s claim that the evictions are “not a result” of the G7 summit doesn’t ring true. Because a search of Expedia shows a different story.
All in the name of profit
On Friday 4 June at 9:30am, The Canary searched Expedia for one room from the 10-14 June. All hotels and holiday homes in and around Carbis Bay were sold out. A search for nearby St Ives, and then Penzance, returned the same result. Yet if you searched for a stay in both St Ives and Penzance from 7-9 June, there were hotels available. Likewise rooms were available for the week after the summit.
So, hotels are full for the G7 – but not before and not after. This seems to show that the G7 may have triggered hotels to evict homeless families. It’s standard practice in the hotel industry to ‘close out’ availability on third party booking sites when you know there’s a big or popular event happening. That is, hotels tell websites they’re full so people can’t book rooms. This ensures hotels can get the highest price possible for their rooms.
Moreover, it seems some hotels have inflated their prices due to the summit. For example, the St Ives Harbour Hotel is asking £1,087 for a double room for 7-9 June. Yet for 2-4 August the same room is around half the price at £547. Again, this kind of practice is common in the hotel industry. Of note is that this hotel still has rooms available after the summit.
So, in short hotels have kicked homeless families out because they can make a killing from the G7. And then, it being peak tourist season in Cornwall, they certainly wouldn’t want the families back. As Cornwall Council’s cabinet member for housing Olly Monk admitted to BBC News:
I guess they have decided they can make more money by going back to their normal business model.
But the council blaming hotels is not really the full story.
The council isn’t blameless
BBC News reported that Monk:
said people in need of emergency accommodation had been housed in hotels for large parts of the coronavirus crisis but only under rolling short-term contracts.
They quoted him as saying:
Because June is very, very busy hotels are turning round to us and saying they want to get back to normality.
But the council isn’t blameless. It knew the G7 and tourist season would be happening. Yet it only put homeless families in hotels on “short-term contracts”. So, it was inevitable this situation would arise.
A spokesperson for Cornwall Council told The Canary:
Our priority is to keep people safe and we are working hard in the short term to find suitable emergency accommodation for all those who need it.
We are taking steps to increase capacity for emergency, long term and specialist accommodation in Cornwall. We’ve invested more than £40m and acquiring over 100 properties so far. Our new purpose-built hub for rough sleepers will open in November. It will provide accommodation and support for 11 people. We will be using funding from the Government’s Next Steps Accommodation Fund over the coming months to provide homes and fund support workers. There are real pressures on emergency provision. But we are doing all we can to meet our duty to keep people safe, provide housing for those in need and improve security for provision in the future.
But “doing all we can” rings hollow given the council would have had plenty of advance warning that this would be the situation.
G7: peak corporate capitalism
Direct action coalition group Resist G7 is on the frontline of the protests against the summit. A spokesperson told The Canary:
The decision to make people homeless to accommodate tourists is utterly disgusting but shamefully unsurprising.
We’ve been told time and again that the G7 will have a legacy for Cornwall. But all we’ve seen so far are vanity projects aimed at attracting tourists.
We are sick of Cornwall being a playground for the rich where tourists are given more consideration than our local community. Cornwall is one of the poorest areas in Europe. However second home owners and those wanting to profit from tourism have forced property prices way above the reach of local people. No one should be homeless in Cornwall when we have houses that sit empty for half the year.
We are supposed to be grateful for tourism. We’re supposed to be grateful that we have seasonal work to serve the needs of the rich. This is not good enough. We want Cornwall to work for those of us who live here and this has to include banning second homes and making sure genuine affordable housing is available to all.
So, not content with being the pinnacle of corporate capitalism, inequality, and climate and ecological destruction – G7 leaders have now effectively been the catalyst in making people homeless in Cornwall too. They have worsened a problem that was already entrenched. What happens next for these families remains to be seen.
Featured image via Hedgehog Digital, the G7 – screengrab and Lefteris Heretakis – Flickr
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