Up to eight families on St Helena are known to be on the brink of losing their homes, it has emerged.
But the island’s new airport workers’ camp could provide a way out of a looming crisis.
St Helena Goverment says it intends to create new homes with the equipment used to build the camp by contractor Basil Read.
The plight of the eight households has been disclosed after the Clarke Williams family made a public appeal for somewhere to live. “There are and will be many more in the same position as us in the near future,” they said in a letter to the St Helena Independent.
That view is apparently confirmed by St Helena Government, in a response to questions from St Helena Online.
“Records show that there are about eight families that will or might become homeless within the next few months,” it says.
The letter from Paul, Megan and Tracie Clarke Williams told how they were having to move out of their well-kept home as a severe shortage of rental properties pushed up island rents.
With airport workers swelling the island’s population, Enterprise St Helena has been running a campaign to persuade off-island Saints to let their empty homes for perhaps £6,000 a year.
Paul told how he had returned to the island to join his family only the day before they learned they would have to move. They could not pay £500 a month, he said.
“My wife, like the majority on the island who care for the elderly, work in the shops, sweep the streets, collect the rubbish, only earns £400 a month.
“Been to Social Services, filled the forms, going through the motions, talking to councillors, made countless phone calls. The response is, they have no houses for Saints, they are all under renovation.
“By 30 November, we will be out on the street.”
A number of initiatives are in hand to provide more-affordable housing, says the government.
“The government landlord has been in post for 18 months and is responsible for Government Landlord Housing (GLH).
“During that period a GLH in Main Street has been converted into four flats, and at Quincy Vale, Levelwood (ex sheltered accommodation), two flats and one two-bedroom unit have been created. Refurbishment of existing GLH properties is also ongoing.
“Basil Read has already constructed a significant number of pre-fabricated homes for their staff and workers, and SHG is considering the longer term use of this pre-fabricated housing.”
St Helena Online asked whether the equipment used to build the camp at Bradleys could also provide government housing elsewhere on the island.
The answer: ”Yes, and this is the intention.”
A government property that stood empty for a long time has also been refurbished to house a family with a disabled member.
A “highly experienced” new housing executive starts work on the island next month.
Andy Crowe has previously worked for Southampton City Council and the Audit Commission.
The government has also published a housing strategy. In the introduction, it says that “a protection mechanism is required for the local population in the event that a property market takes off and potentially makes housing less affordable.”
A 2008 report on the airport scheme also recognised the risk of rents rising. It warned of “potential for housing construction to lag behind demand.”