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Housing / Life in a caravan for social care worker struggling to find house after move north

Lack of accommodation for people moving to Shetland for a job has been highlighted in recent months

Emma Boyce is living in a caravan with her pets after taking up a job in Shetland. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

A WOMAN who moved to Shetland for a job earlier this year says she is still living in a caravan on someone else’s land because she cannot find suitable accommodation to rent.

Emma Boyce, 47, arrived in Shetland in mid-March from Cornwall having been offered a job at the end of last year in social care.

But she says due to a lack of suitable accommodation she has been living in a caravan in the central mainland on land owned by someone she met through Facebook – using her new neighbour’s bathroom, washing machine and water supply.

Boyce said she contacted estate agents prior to moving to Shetland, but was told there were no properties available that would accept animals.

She said she has four small dogs and two cats.

Emma is also on waiting lists for social housing and has already racked up a number of eligibility points, but nothing suitable has come up yet.

It comes after members of Shetland’s community safety and resilience board heard this week that a person lined up for a police role in Lerwick turned down a job offer because she could not find suitable housing.

Struggling to find suitable accommodation in the rental sector has become a common theme for many – not only for people moving up to Shetland for work, but also for local people too.

Properties can be scarce, and snapped up quickly – while the rents per month can also hit people in the pocket.

Meanwhile the cost of buying a house has also priced out many potential homeowners, particularly first-time buyers.

Boyce said that with no leads coming from estate agents, she was left to navigate through word of mouth and community contact.

“I checked Facebook and could see lots of people who didn’t have animals having a similar problem,” she said.

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“I checked out sites for touring caravans and also put up an advert asking if anyone had any land I could stay on until I get a property. Two people got back to me.

“I’m staying in my caravan next to a lady’s house. I met her on Facebook. We had no connection before this.

“I have to fetch water each day and I use her toilet, shower and washing machine.”

Boyce said she joined the council list in March and applied for Hjaltland Housing Association too.

“I have 240 points with the council and have put all areas of mainland plus Bressay as areas where I’ll move to,” she added.

Her housing officer did say a place in Yell was available, but after talking it through with her work it was deemed unsuitable in case of cancelled ferries meaning she could not tend to her pets if she was stuck on the mainland.

“My housing officer says I have lots of points and lots of areas which are less in demand so I should get somewhere at some point but living in such a small space and using other people’s facilities is hard work,” she added.

“I’m conscious of not getting in her way and trying not to be a difficult guest.

“So far nothing has come up with the council. I applied for one Hjaltland property that I qualified for but I didn’t get it. I’m constantly on the lookout for a property, but it’s proving very difficult.”

Boyce already has experience of a heated housing market, having been in Cornwall.

She said in the south of England county “locals have now been priced out of the housing market because so many people from communities where wages are higher than in Cornwall have moved in, and housing prices have gone through the roof”.

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