We visit the honeypot town near Bristol which has declared a ‘housing crisis’
Locals are struggling to find somewhere to live in their own town
‘You can’t find anywhere that is affordable’ - that’s the view of many people living in a beautiful market town an hour from Bristol where the council has declared a ‘housing crisis’.
The average price of rent in Frome - named as the Somerset winner of the best place to live earlier this year - has gone up to £1,499 according to the town council due to an influx of visitors and second-home owners from London.
The council has worked out that the £1.5k-a-month rental cost is 50% higher than the average local salary. Councillor Polly Lamb, who proposed the emergency declaration, said locals were now being driven out of the town.
The town itself could be described as ‘the quintessential market town’ with a weekly market in Market Yard taking place twice a week plus a once-a-month Frome Independent. The town also boasts one of Europe’s best preserved medieval shopping streets, Cheap Street which has a ‘leat’ (a narrow stream) running down the middle, taking water from Grade II-listed St John the Baptist Church at the top.
But all that charm and history has led to problems for locals, who are literally clambering over each other to find a place to live.
Sophie Mullins, 36, owner of zero-waste refills shop, said: “I sold my house so that I could open my own independent business in Frome, therefore I was looking to rent. ’I managed to find a property and I was in there for about two years.
“We ended up getting very difficult neighbours and I was pregnant, so we were looking to move. ’We were looking for a rental for about four months with no luck. We had dogs too, so it was extremely difficult to find a landlord that would take them as well. We only managed to find a property because our friends had neighbours who were moving out and passed our contact details directly onto the landlord.”
Lianna Denwood, 23, shop assistant, said: “I moved out of Bristol after finishing uni and went to work in London. ’When I finished that job I came home, but there was no point in going and renting somewhere as I wouldn’t be able to set myself up and get into the housing market so I decided to move home.
“My partner, who was also working in London, decided to move home too because his rent skyrocketed by a grand there. ’We’re both living in our separate households and we wanted to move out as soon as possible, but renting isn’t a possibility because if we want to buy in the future, our deposit money, our savings, everything, would be going on the rent.
“When you’re not earning enough, or earning a lot but only enough to cover your living expenses, you’re never going to get to a point where you can own your own property.”
An anonymous local resident, aged 41, said: “You can’t find anywhere that is affordable. Anywhere with an extra bedroom, which is what we need, is just completely out of our price range. We are currently renting a two bed and we need a three bed.
“The speed of which properties get let, when occasionally there are homes we think we could push ourselves to afford, we go to book a viewing and it’s already gone. The speed in which they get snapped up is ridiculous. There’s a handful of properties available in a price range we may be able to stretch to.
“Everything else is up and above [what we can afford], we work hard to pay for what we get at the moment. We’re just going to have to wait it out in our tiny house and hope things change.”
Local property developer Connor Raudsepp, 26, recently purchased a rundown one-bed flat Frome with a business partner – and hopes to put it on the rental market once complete. He said: “We’re not going to skip over that there’s profit in property development, the main reason I’m in it is for profit. However, this place has been empty and is going to serve a purpose in the future – putting a roof over somebody’s head.
“We’re not taking this money and then running off to The Bahamas, it’s going to be invested in another development somewhere else – another place being brought back to the market.”
Ironically though, rent rises are driving many of the artisan small businesses and cafes that define the town out of business.
Those looking for smaller-sized places to live are also impacted in the town. Rented roomsare now kno wn to go for as much as £500 a month, while a small one-person flat can cost over £1,000 a month.