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Proper action needed on "second homes"
At the very end of 2016, the Government announced that it would be making £60 million available to help “tackle the problem of high levels of second homeownership” in certain communities across the United Kingdom.
Cornwall Council has been awarded over £5 million pounds – a very significant proportion of the overall “Community Housing Fund” – because of the number of properties occupied on a part-time basis in our area.

The announcement also made it clear that the money should go towards the provision of affordable housing, which would be provided in partnership with “community-led” organisations such as the Cornwall Community Land Trust (CCLT).

This initiative has been widely welcomed, with the CCLT praising central government for recognising this “long standing problem” and prioritising Cornwall with its funding.

And it is, of course, refreshing to finally see representatives of the Government acknowledging that second homes are a significant issue in many coastal and rural communities.

The press release from the Department of Communities and Local Government states that “second home ownership is at an all-time high” and is “crowding out first time buyers and causing a shortage of available properties.”

It added that: “Often second homes stand empty for a large proportion of the time which can also affect community cohesion, affect the demographics of an area and distort local housing markets.”

The Housing Minister Gavin Barwell was reported as saying that the “high number of second homes can be a frustration for many who struggle to find an affordable home in their community.”

Mr Barwell’s comment about “frustration” is certainly a massive “under-statement” as far as I am concerned.

It is also my view that this new investment in affordable housing does not go far enough and will do little to combat the truly dysfunctional nature of the present housing market.

It would be manifestly wrong to blame all housing problems on second homes.

Indeed, in the context of local-needs housing, it needs to be pointed out that the UK Government has massively slashed funding for affordable homes; it has pushed for publicly-owned rental properties to be lost through right-to-buy; it has forced Housing Associations to charge higher rents for their properties, making them less affordable; and it has changed planning rules so that developers provide less affordable homes on their developments.

If the UK Government was truly serious about combating second homes, it would introduce planning restrictions to stop and then reverse the spread of such properties. It is my view that planning permission should be needed to turn a family home into a second home and if more than 5% of the housing stock in a particular settlement and/or parish were second homes, no more would be allowed at all.
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By Dick Cole. Published on 22nd January 2017.

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