Prince William’s Cornish public housing project is being criticized across the board

As part of Prince William’s “pay attention to ME and not my brother” blitz this week, he ran to Roya Nikkhah at the Times to preview his latest housing scheme. William plans to build some form of “public housing” on Duchy of Cornwall land. The planned 24 homes will be built in Cornwall and William thinks the whole thing will only cost £3 million (it will not). William billed this project as part of his bid to “end homelessness,” because that dumbass loves to overpromise and hype himself as the savior of homeless people. In any case, people who are actually familiar with Cornwall’s real estate crisis are extremely peeved about William and his scheme. You can read the full piece here at Byline (it’s very interesting) and here are some highlights:

Cornish councillors and activists have warned that plans by the £1 billion Duchy of Cornwall estate – now controlled by Prince William – to build 24 homes for homeless people on Crown land will make little dent in a housing crisis that has left 23,000 people waiting for a council home.

Cornwall Council Labour group Leader Jayne Kirkham welcomed the scheme but told Byline Times that it represents a drop in the ocean to tackle the issue. “Obviously we need something more systemic than a project like this,” she said. “It’s a huge problem. We are struggling all across Cornwall. I’ve seen many families evicted from their private rented accommodation and having to live in caravans. It affects the kids’ schools, and parents’ jobs.”

Coastal Cornwall has a persistent issue with thousands of unregulated holiday lets and (often empty) second homes vastly outnumbering the number of homes available for rent. AirBnb listings show that, as of 20 February 2024, there are 976 ‘entire homes’ available as short-term holiday lets in Cornwall for more than £240 a night. Yet there are just 348 homes currently available for general private rent in the entire county listed on RightMove. Another site, OpenRent, lists 117; while OnTheMarket lists 145. Cornwall has a population of 570,000 people.

Lib Dem Councillor Thalia Marrington represents Mousehole and Newlyn, fishing communities which appear deserted at certain times due to the prevalence of second homes and holiday lets.

“You can never build enough because people want to move ‘down to lovely Cornwall’,” she told Byline Times. “But we have such a massive crisis. There are roughly 23,000 on the housing waiting list in Cornwall. When you’re talking about 24 homes… As soon as you hear ‘24’ you don’t look into it too much more, because it’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are already around 800 households in emergency temporary accommodation here… Yet we’ve got thousands of AirBnbs and second homes in Cornwall, so you’ve got so much [housing] stock gone.”

“[William’s project is] all wrong housing – it’s houses with five bedrooms,” she said. “It’s not going to help the housing crisis… There seems to be the blanket approach that any housebuilding is good because they’re all sold, that stock is ‘trickling down’ [to locals]. It’s the opposite.”

Anti-monarchy campaign group Republic points out that the Duchy estate is not Prince William’s personal property but that of the Crown. It is, in effect, gifted by Parliament to the heir who is the eldest son of the monarch. The Duchy estate may expect to make profit from the homes, which will at any rate remain its asset, rather than being ‘donated’ to St Petrocs.

Graham Smith, Republic CEO, said: “The country will spend at least £3.4 billion on the monarchy over the next decade. That’s money that could be invested in homes for those who most need them, instead of two dozen palatial homes for one family.” Smith argues that Prince William is “part of the problem”. “Rather than be thankful for a few homes built on Duchy land, which William will profit from, we all need to be demanding the return of the Duchy to full public ownership and an end to the monarchy,” he told this newspaper.

[From Byline Times]

It’s always been so bizarre to me that British people, by and large, do not object to the fundamental fact that “the crown” owns so much real estate across the UK. Home ownership is such a fundamental part to “building wealth” for so many families, but British people are stuck in a deeply flawed system where they’ll live all their lives as renters, many of them in homes and farms owned by the crown or various duchies. As for William’s planned Cornwall housing development… it is a drop in the bucket and he’s also not going to be able to build 24 homes that cheaply, and clearly, what’s needed is political movement and the government stepping in and changing the local laws for renters and development. All of the people criticizing William’s big scheme should also know that he probably won’t even follow through! He gets bored a lot and just drops sh-t all the time.

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

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51 Responses to “Prince William’s Cornish public housing project is being criticized across the board”

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  1. Wow 23,000 waiting for housing. Peg wants to build 24 houses and thinks that’s enough? Never learns to read the room and what is actually needed. Just continues on with his “heir BnB’s”.

    • Laurac says:

      That’s 23,000 in Cornwall always alone, there are thousands and thousands more across the rest of the UK

    • CC says:

      He’s suggesting a solution to 0.1% of the problem! What more do you want from him?

    • Yup, Me says:

      He wants to build 24 houses with 5 bedrooms. Those aren’t adding to the starter home or low income housing inventory. He’s building luxury (sized) homes with (at best) builder grade materials so they’ll be falling apart and useless within a decade (if they are ever completed).

  2. Lau says:

    Political movement will never happen under a tory government, they hate poor people too much to do anything to help them.

    • Agnes says:

      The crisis sounds as bad as The Highland Clearances where 70,000 Scots had to emigrate to America, Canada, Australia, etc. because landlords could make more money off sheep than humans. Substitute “tourists” for sheep. But there’s nowhere for them to go now. 24 families ain’t gonna cut it, Bill.

      • Lau says:

        Where did they get that tiny number from ? It sounds ridiculous. You can’t even expect to start begining fighting against homelessness with less than 30 houses it’s insane.

    • Megan says:

      The Duchy of Cornwall is the 12 largest landowners in the UK. Hugh Grosvenor privately owns more land than the Duchy. It seems to be the problem is more widespread than just the royals. The entire aristocracy is fueling the housing crisis.

  3. Sasha says:

    He is a complete FAILURE.

  4. equality says:

    Graham has the right idea. Do away with the monarchy and use the money spent on them and the money from the duchy to help the homeless. It appears that PW’s plan is for those who can afford rent but can’t find rentals currently. Where is his plan for the destitute, who can’t afford the rent but need housing?

  5. kelleybelle says:

    Loser. That’s the post.

  6. bitchy architect says:

    the idea that you can build 24 5-bedroom homes for $4.5 million/3 million pounds is not only ludicrous but demonstrates that there’s no one with any actual building experience let alone affordable housing experience remotely involved in this fantasy.

    • Molly says:

      Triple-wides all around?

      • Agnes says:

        They’re claiming the houses will be traditional architecture with slate roofs and granite lintels. 3 million might cover 24 converted shipping containers, but not the labor and material cost for traditional buildings. Unless they’re going to make the homeless quarry and build the structures for free.

    • TurbanMa says:

      Exactly, a ridiculous number. If people could build homes for that price half the problem would be solved. So out of touch as usual.

    • Smart&Messy says:

      Kaiser’s right. Just wait until he gets bored or mad that people, again, don’t fall over themselves praising him. Next year, some where around IG 2025 a new scheme will be announced with a new name and it will cost an estimated 3 million pounds.

  7. Irene says:

    I wonder why don’t they build apartment buildings as opposed to single family homes, especially if even rentals are so hard to come by in that area?

  8. SarahCS says:

    The owning/renting question probably depends on who you ask, I don’t think a large part of the population is fully aware of how bad it is although understanding is growing. We have the press screaming more loudly about royal trivia than the number of tory MPs who are landlords who are trying to gut the bill to make renters more secure and don’t even think of trying the get major reform for how houses are built and who gets to buy them.

    • Lauren says:

      And none of the existing laws, and most likely future, that protect rentors apply to the Duchies or other Crown properties.

  9. Jay says:

    Again, this is a housing development on land that William owns and on which he will profit – it’s not a charity, despite his attempt to pretend that it will “solve” homelessness.

    If short-term rentals are a problem here, couldn’t there be some sort of vacancy tax to discourage it? If William is already the largest landlord, couldn’t he have more of an impact that way?

    • Magdalena says:

      There are councils in other coastal regions which do exactly that to combat the scourge of empty houses outside of holiday seasons while local people struggle to find homes: they imposed a higher rate of council tax on empty properties (where previously the owners of empty properties paid nothing for them). But they also increased the council tax the longer the properties remained empty. So it was in the best interests of the owners to rent them quickly, even if it meant that they had to charge lower rents. All of a sudden these properties were being put up for sale or rented at speed.

      Perhaps Cornwall officials ought to confer with their counterparts in places like Kent and elsewhere and find out what they did and how it worked. But just as the UK tends to think it knows best and has nothing to learn from other countries, there are councils and boroughs which also feel the same about other councils etc. in other parts of the country.

      • ML says:

        Magdalena, That sounds like a brilliant idea! The rental market- AirBnB, second house issues are universal to tourist-/ vacation-friendly destinations. It drives up the housing market and forces lower income/ older folks/ starters into being driven out. Taxing higher amounts for the longer a place stays vacant is a great solution.

      • kirk says:

        Magdalena – Thanks for the info on local councils and their ability to change the available housing stock for lower income people. Sounds like a big problem in the area where PW thought he would “help” is one common to many resort communities where landowners lean on ready supply of lower income workers to service their lifestyle, but whose presence puts housing costs out of reach for the “servant” class.

    • Debbie says:

      That seems to be such a conflict of interest for him to profit financially off of a supposedly “charitable” project.

  10. Eurydice says:

    I’m happy to criticize William every minute of the day, but from what I read in the Byline article they could confiscate all of the Duchy land and it still wouldn’t solve the problem. The problem seems to be that there are laws and regulations in place that encourage evictions for no cause, that encourage vacation homes and air b&b’s, that local government can’t decide if building more homes is better than fewer homes, that locals are all NIMBY about affordable housing.

    All of these are government issues about which William is not allowed to be involved. So, maybe he can change the configuration of his project and build more and smaller homes, but I don’t see how he can come up with 23,000 units. They can point to the real hypocrisy of a billionaire who owns multiple mansions talking about homelessness, but it also looks like a smokescreen to deflect from failures of government.

    • ML says:

      I’m also willing to criticize William every minute of the day. ☺️
      I do think he has a piece of the blame as a very rich landlord of properties that have been rented for hundreds of years. The nobility does as well…
      But I do agree with most of your thoughtfully written comments, Eurydice. PW is a small part of a much bigger problem.
      Lastly, and totally unconnected, after reading the Byline article, I learned that there’s a place in Cornwall called Mousehole. That sounds both rodent-infested and completely adorable at the same time.

    • Proud Mary says:

      I’m honestly not sure the point you’re trying to make Eurydice. No one accosted William and demanded he solve the homeless issue. It is he who declared that the buck stops with him when it comes to ending homelessness. I don’t see that it’s untoward for people to question his plan in an effort to determine whether it satisfies his declarations. That he seems not to know the nuances of what’s required to resolve the issue is not the fault of his critics.

      • Eurydice says:

        At this point, it’s a given that William’s a bloviating idiot. But, as I was reading the Byline article, I saw that much of the criticism was coming from people whose job it is to do something about the problem. So ok, William’s plan might house only a couple dozen families, but what are these critics doing about the other thousands waiting in line? If William’s plan isn’t workable, then what suggestions do they have as an alternative? I saw a lot of blame and criticism being passed around, lots of “this should,” that should,” and “there ought to be a law,” but no indication that there’s any activity going on to solve anything.

  11. Amy Bee says:

    I’m guessing he didn’t consult with the Cornwall county Council and I asked before is this project really about moving homeless people out of London?

  12. Whyforthelove says:

    Sweet heavens that header pic is a whole vibe ! And he is terrible my goodness

  13. bluhare says:

    I can’t stand William. Have never really liked him, never will I need to preface that for the Terribly Unpopular Opinion that is coming up.

    I get it, it’s not enough. But he converted part of a project that was going to be higher end to housing for unhoused people. It’s only 24, I get that too. But that’s 24 fewer unhoused people/families. That is definitely an improvement over continuing the project (that Charles began) with none.

    I’m not naive enough to believe William will have an awakening, but it would be nice if he did. And now I need to lie down. Can’t remember ever defending him and I’m in a tizzy.

    • Eurydice says:

      Lol, I know how you feel. I had to lie down and dab my temples with lavender water.

    • Proud Mary says:

      bluhare, the problem is that William’s foray into the homeless crisis is not only naïve, but its also dangerous. Homelessness is a societal issue that cannot be solved by one individual with 3m pounds. By declaring that he’s going to solved the crisis, William is making a political statement that the government should not be prioritizing societal crisis like homelessness. This is similar to Kate calling for more food banks, while Michael Ratchford asked for the government to provide food lunches. Both Kate and Rachford were making political statements, but only one got abused. If William really wanted to make a difference, he could have used his influence with the Tories to demand that they prioritize the issue in their budgets. Likewise for Kate, through her early years program.

      • Eurydice says:

        Is there anyone in the UK who seriously believes it’s William’s responsibility to end homelessness? I don’t think even he believes it. When election time comes around, will it be a valid Tory campaign argument to say “Homelessness wasn’t our priority because William said he’d take care if it?” It’s an absurd idea, which is why William’s being dragged for it.

        As for William making demands about UK fiscal policy, he got a raft of sh$t for being political just for saying he wants peace in Gaza. He has no influence.

      • says:

        Your point is well taken, Proud Mary. He won’t solve the homeless crisis; he can’t. But at least he’s doing something instead of a performative sleeping rough stunt.

        The housing crisis in Cornwall and Dorset is the issue; people can’t afford to buy because people are buying up homes and setting them up as Air B&B’s or second homes for profit. Not sure you can do anything; who wouldn’t take a raft of money for their house? Most people would, there’s very few who would stand on principles over cash.

        He did something. It’s a start, he’s an example. That’s all he can be really.

    • apointe says:

      So if you go to the emergency room with a gaping chest wound and a payroll administrator slaps 10 band aids across your chest, is it ok to call that “at least a start”?

      Please. How long will these substandard units stand? This is William as a slumlord in white knight’s clothing.

      • bluhare says:

        With all due respect, you don’t know that the units are substandard. As best I know they aren’t even constructed yet so it’s a bit early to say that.

        As I already said, I know it’s not much, but 24 units are 24 units. We know there’s a bigger need.

        And I’m not sure a payroll administator would be allowed in an ER.

    • Ladiabla says:

      Ok, I’m going to preface this by saying I’m not even a homeowner myself, and it doesn’t look like I’m ever going to become one if I don’t hit the lottery, however, I just looked up how much it costs to build a habitat for humanity home in my area, and it’s about $100K. PW has 3 million pounds, so $125K pounds per home, is this not doable in the UK if it’s a charitable enterprise? I know everything is more expensive there, so I don’t know about 5 bedrooms in Cornwall, but maybe it’s a prototype? If this idea works, then they’ll build more? English CBers, forgive me if what I’m saying is completely daft, just asking questions.

  14. SamuelWhiskers says:

    In my experience very, very few British people are even aware of it. The huge problem here in the UK is greedy foreign investor landlords who buy up huge swathes of property in cities and rent them out for high prices. That is an issue everyone (except maybe older people who bought property young) is very aware of, and that’s the main issue Brits are concerned with when it comes to property.

    Also, most of the urban land the royals own is retail, and people have absolutely no idea at all that royals are in any way connected to it. For example I just went on Wikipedia and learned right now this second that the Crown own the whole of Regent’s Street and a bunch of suburban retail parks and basically malls. I bet very few Brits are aware of that since it’s not something that impacts on our lives. It’s all massive chain shops, and they certainly don’t have any dealings with or pay rent to the Crown directly, it’s all through middlemen. I’m actually very shocked to learn this (and wouldn’t have looked it up if I hadn’t read Kaiser’s article, and it’s telling that I’m having to learn about it from an American blog), because it would have never occurred to me that the royal family own a bunch of suburban malls. There’s just zero awareness of this in the UK at all.

    The number of people who are direct tenants of the Crown is miniscule, I’ve certainly never met anyone who was a crown tenant.

    So it’s not that we don’t care, it’s that we don’t know, because there’s almost zero media coverage or awareness/coverage of it, and because 99.99% of Brits don’t have any direct personal connection or involvement.

  15. Cel2495 says:

    My paternal family is from the area and yes it’s a huge problem . Lots of vacation hikes and expensive places just for the wealthy and not enough homes for regular people. I am thankful that my family is not part of the vulnerable population but you can’t help feel dismayed over the whole thing. I was watching a project that has been very successful in Denmark and other places and is communal living, albeit it has been targeted towards seniors but maybe this is something that can be also extended to families, single parents and at risk youths. 24 homes is not going to solve the issues in the UK.. it’s too big of a problem, actually is a crisis.

    • SarahCS says:

      When we had to sell my grandmothers house on the coast in North Devon we were very selective about who we sold to and in the end it went to one of the local churches to be the home of their priest/vicar (I forget the job title!). That doesn’t guarantee it stays a family home in the long term but helps for now.

  16. Mary Pester says:

    @samuelwiskers, your so right Samuels, I watched a programme about the amount of oligarchs and Saudi prince’s that own a massive amount of properties throughout London, and it’s people from London and that area that own masses amounts of properties here in cornwall
    I said all I wanted to say about Billy’s latest “look at me”, project when Kaiser first said about it, and as someone who lives in this beautiful county, I have first hand knowledge of the housing situation

  17. HuffnPuff says:

    This plan doesn’t sound like it will do much other than provide income for William/the Duchy. It’s why we need less millionaires and billionaires. Most of them waste money on things that actually benefit them most of all. Disgusting. I think I’d rather him stick to the Kate plan of just talking about problems and meeting with experts so they can all agree that the problems exist and then no one does anything. At least no one is making bank off that.

  18. CC says:

    Are you telling me that Cornish peasants don’t interlock and stack together for easy storage when the royals aren’t using them?

  19. Linney says:

    William and Kate make so many announcements about the amazing things they are going to do. Then of course, next to nothing happens. Other than mental health and the “importance of being nice to kids when they are young” I can’t think of one cause they have promoted or helped in any large way. (And of course, I have no idea what Kate’s “incredible” early years project has done to change or enlighten anyone!) Diana, for all her faults, was involved with so many causes and she knew how to bring attention to charities and causes that we still remember today. What possessed William to vow to end homelessness? He is the laziest person alive and makes very little contribution to anything. But that’s what they do: make big promises, do nothing, then move on to the next big promise or excuse.

  20. Julia says:

    We have crown land all over Canada too! It’s all undeveloped.