A firefighter and a nurse who have been evicted from their home in Swanage say the lack of affordable rental properties is a crisis that’s driving them out of the town.
Chantel Marriott and Joss Gibson and their three children and two dogs have until the end of June 2022 to find somewhere else to live but say there just isn’t anything around. Both provide emergency care to the community and have strong local connections.
Chantel Marriott collects money at Swanage Carnival
“Turned our world upside down”
Chantel is one of four community first responders in Swanage, often the first on the scene in an emergency, offering life-saving skills. She’s also an acute medical nurse at Dorset County Hospital in Dorchester.
Joss is an apprentice electrician with Pinks in Swanage and a retained firefighter, requiring him to be within four minutes of the station.
The family now face being made homeless after receiving a no-fault eviction to allow the landlord to move their own family, who are also struggling to rent, into the property.
“It’s turned our world upside down. There are no suitable rental properties on the market.
“My mother even works for a lettings firm in Swanage, so she’s in a prime position to help but she just broke down and said ‘there is just nothing, I don’t know what you’re going to do’.”
Joss Gibson on his firefighter duties
Play a big role in the local community
As well as her regular work duties, Chantel provided first aid support for the recent Swanage Grammar school final reunion. She has also taught first aid in local schools and helped out with the Harmans Cross village fete.
The couple have been in rented accommodation for the last eight years and had been saving to buy a shared ownership house but that would require both of them keeping their jobs.
Local estate agents say that rising house prices are pushing ownership out of reach for many. There are reports of developers buying up properties on the phone without even viewing them.
They report that many landlords are tempted by the lure of short-term profits from holiday visitors on Airbnb even if in the long run it might be more profitable to rent out to a local family.
Private rental properties for local families have all but disappeared in Swanage
“It’s tears every day”
“It’s absolutely dire. It’s tears every day. I can’t explain the stress and worry it’s caused. We are being driven out of the area that we have both grown up in and have family in. It’s just not acceptable.”
They have been looking on property websites every day and contacted all their friends and family. Only one three bed property has come up in Swanage at £1,450 a month and was quickly snapped up. The couple have been paying £950 a month up to now.
On duty at the Swanage Grammar School association reunion
“Forced out of the town”
Through contacts, the couple have been offered a temporary rental of a second home in Langton Matravers but that would be five minutes and 36 seconds away from the fire station, not the required four, so Joss would have to give up his firefighter work, meaning they would lose that income.
“It’s absolutely disgusting that our local people and ones like us who serve our community are being forced out of the town because of the rising living costs.
“We’ve got a decent wage between us but it’s still not enough to live in this area.”
Dorset Council says it takes 12 weeks to get housing needs assessed. There are currently nearly 3,000 households on the waiting list for social housing in Dorset.
Emergency accommodation for those who are homeless is likely to be in a B and B or mobile home. Latest figures from Dorset Council show that 70 households were homeless from October to December 2021 in the county.
To continue as a retained firefighter Joss Gibson has to be within four minutes of the fire station
“We really need to act urgently”
Swanage Community Housing was set up in 2021 to help address the housing crisis. This is a community land trust supported by Swanage Town Council, which aims to build affordable homes for local people on a not-for-profit basis.
The group is currently assessing potential town centre sites that will be suitable for a small development of social housing.
Swanage Town councillor Nicola Rogers and supporter of Swanage Community Housing said:
“The plight of this couple really illustrates how important it is to sort out the housing crisis in Swanage and across Dorset, without delay.
“We’re determined to provide quality housing that is affordable and our town can be proud of, as soon as we possibly can. We really need to act urgently.
“For the sake of the community we need young families like this to be able to afford to live in Swanage, for the benefit of us all.”
- More about Swanage Community Housing is on its website