Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Action on second homes

My article in today's Cornish Guardian focuse on the topic of second homes. It is as below:

Last week, the members of Cornwall Council unanimously backed a motion to seek the removal of the 10% council tax discount presently enjoyed by second home-owners.

Prior to 2004, the discount was a massive 50% but the last Government legislated to allow councils to reduce that discount to 10% if they wished.

From that time, Cornwall County Council and the six former district councils cut the discount to the minimum and used the additional revenue to fund affordable housing schemes across Cornwall. Sadly, this was an arrangement that did not survive the abolition of the districts and the creation of the unitary authority.

Last week’s motion rightly noted that with the “continuing recession and the demand on the public purse to provide frontline services … it would be unjust to allow second home concessions to continue.” It was resolved that Cornwall Council make representations to central government to both abolish the discount and endorse the use of the £1.6 million, that would be raised in Cornwall, for new affordable homes for local people.

There are over 14,000 second homes in Cornwall and their impact has been very damaging, leaving certain hamlets and coastal areas virtually uninhabited in winter months.

It is important that we put pressure on MPs on this issue, but it is about more than just levels of local taxation.

It is my view that it is simply wrong that wealthy individuals should have two or more homes, while many hardworking families cannot afford a first home in their local communities.

The rise in house prices to ridiculous levels, and by association the heightened cost of renting, has been caused by a host of factors. But that includes the growth of second homes and making a commodity out of that most basic human need to put a roof over one’s head.

We need far-reaching reforms to the planning system and the introduction of controls to reverse both the spread and number of second homes. Planning permission should be needed before homes can be turned into part-time residences, so that councillors have the ability to say no.

Mebyon Kernow believes that if more than 5% of the housing stock in a particular settlement and/or parish are second homes, there should also be an automatic ban on any new ones. And in such areas, properties used as second homes coming onto the market should only be allowed to be sold for use as permanent dwellings.

The big question is: will the multiple-house-owning politicians at the top of the main parties do what is right for the majority?

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