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Planning changes needed for second homes

June 20, 2022 12:00 PM
Originally published by Babergh South Suffolk Liberal Democrats

Second homes are a growing issue in many rural areas of the country

Whilst visitors with second homes bring economic benefits, they also reduce local housing stock and drive up house prices by making offers that most locals can't match. The squeeze on housing availability drives up rents as well as prices.

Yet when second home owners arrive for the weekend, for the week or for a holiday, they rely on local people for their services in shops, pubs and bars. But many people can't afford to live in a settlement where second homes are popular.

In 2018/19, an estimated 772,000 households reported having second homes.

Speaking during questions on Levelling Up in the Commons last month, Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron said:

'It is… vital that houses that are given planning permission are then used for the purposes agreed on when the permission was granted. I am talking about second home ownership. Homes that are built for local families become second homes, and that leads to communities being hollowed out. Will the Minister look again at bringing in new change of use rules through the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, so that second homes and holiday lets fall under a separate category of planning use, and homes in Cumbria can remain for local families, and do not become part of ghost towns?

The response from housing minister was quite positive:

"I seem to be dealing with the issue of second homes daily; colleagues from around the country are raising it with me and highlighting their concerns for their communities. The Bill allows local councils to increase council tax on second homes, but there is more that we need to explore. That is why I am holding a series of roundtables across the country".

As part of the draft Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, the government said that councils will be able to target second-home owners by doubling their council tax bills after one year of being empty.

As reported in the EADT (June 10th), the "scourge" of second home ownership have been cautiously welcomed by councillors in Suffolk coastal towns with high numbers of empty properties. In Southwold, just two out of five properties are occupied full time, while neighbouring Aldeburgh also has a high volume of second homes.

David Beavan (East Suffolk Lib Dems)

Liberal Democrat District Councillor in Southwold David Beavan who has been highlighting the issue of second homes and the tax loopholes for several years is supportive of council tax measures for second homes but wanted the money raised through the council tax charges on second homes to be provided to a Community Land Trust (CLT) to be spent on affordable housing for local residents. He warned there was a risk second home owners could 'flip' their properties to evade the council tax charges by registering the second home as their permanent or primary residence. This loophole could be closed if all councils across the country decided to adopt the council tax levy on second homes, Cllr Beavan added. There was also the temptation to set them up as businesses so they would qualify to pay business rates rather than council tax.

"Second home owners want to keep the community alive as much as we do. They don't want the town to become holiday parks," Cllr Beavan said. He added the 'real effect' of second homes was that it increased house prices, making homes unaffordable for local residents. He added, "The cost of empty houses and empty shops is bad for our economy so anything that could deal with that, I would welcome"

Source: Dominic Bareham

East Anglian Daily Times 10/6/22