Recently, I had a phone call from BBC Radio Suffolk with a request to join their morning ‘phone-in’. They wanted to know what I thought about a beach hut in Southwold going on the market for £100,000.
Being the church responsible for the Storehouse foodbank they probably thought I’d be up for a bit of an ‘argy bargy’. This is how to ignite a news story, I am told by a journo mate of mine.
I was unable to make the time, but it did make me think about the beach hut. It is in the most desirable part of Southwold, situated south of the pier on the widest part of the promenade. And because properties like this don't come up every day the price naturally gets hiked up.
But if you are stirred to own a shed with a view, you’ll need to read the small print carefully. There is only room for four people and no running water. You’ll also have to use the public conveniences just like everyone else.
On top of that, you can only have it on a 30-year lease from the council. Plus, there’s an additional £720 to pay in annual rent. And if you were thinking of it being a bijou second home, forget it. You’re not permitted to sleep in the hut. Still interested? Well, amazingly, some people are.
Of course, you might well ask, like me, “Who in their right frame of mind would want to shell out for a seaside shed with just enough room for your bucket and spades and a bottle of red?”
It’s all a matter of perspective, I guess. Some might argue that such people with wealth help to keep the local economy going. However, it does jar with the fact that 25 miles down the road in Ipswich you can buy a two-bedroom flat for around £100,000. And you can sleep in it!
Interestingly, in the same hour I was contacted via tweet by Housing Justice, a charity that provides a voice for homeless people, inviting me to attend their conference in Rayleigh, Essex. It’s an organisation that tackles issues such as the lack of decent, affordable housing and gives practical ideas to churches and community groups to help them make a difference in their neighbourhoods. Brilliant!
In an age where there is increasing disparity between regions and generations, along with sweeping benefit changes, bedroom tax and unregulated private rental market, I am glad Housing Justice exists. I think I would like to share a 99p flake with their chief exec on Southwold pier.
Jesus, himself, had something to say on property ownership: He said that "foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." The point I believe Jesus was perhaps making was not about the virtue of being homeless, but the high moral and spiritual price tag that comes with chasing the ‘idols’ of wealth, success and social status. They can rob us of the simple things that really matter and cause us to lose a heavenward perspective that God gives us in himself. CS Lewis said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
Now, I don't know, but the beach hut buyer could turn out to be a rich philanthropist who gives away vast swathes of their income to charity. And if they do we might want to quickly revise our view of them. Not least, if our own giving to good causes is a little suspect.
And, beside, if they did want to spend a £100,000 on a hut with a sea view, let them! But, as with the joyously sounding name of the beach hut itself, ‘Happy Days’, I can only imagine that the estate agents are seeing this as a vintage summer.