Tax sanctions could help reduce number of second homes in Devon
TAX sanctions could be introduced to help reduce the number of second homes in Devon.
Devon County Council chief executive Dr Phil Norrey says tax could be one of the ways councils can help free up unused properties so they can be made available for local people.
The council declared a housing crisis in December.
It is claimed a lack of rental properties prevents key workers moving to the area and more accommodation being converted to short-term holiday lets or sold to take advantage of rising prices.
“We’re finishing up with little housing available for Devon people, people that we want to employ in our workshops, people that we need to look after in the care community and, on the basis of that, we have got a housing crisis,” leader John Hart said at the time.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4 on Monday, June 13, Dr Norrey said second homes accounted for around three per cent of Devon’s total housing stock and that the council wanted to work with central government on what could be done “probably to deter the level of second home ownership.”
He hopes any measures would also “encourage those who do own properties to make them available to local people who really need them.”
Asked how second homes could be deterred, Dr Norrey said: “I suppose it is through some kind of tax sanction regime that could be applied, and I know a number of authorities are looking at that – limiting the number of second homes in communities.
“But we want to do this in a targeted way because second homes aren’t all bad.
“It’s when they get out of proportion in terms of the local area.”
It comes as local authorities are soon likely to be able to double council tax on unoccupied second homes, under reforms announced by communities and housing secretary Michael Gove.
Speaking to Times Radio in early June, Mr Gove said of second homes: “I don’t think they’re immoral.
“But I think it’s important to recognise that when you have people in places like Devon who are local folk who can’t get onto the housing ladder, because the price of property has been bid up by second homeowners, sometimes you need to take appropriate steps in order to make sure that communities can flourish.”
Dr Norrey says the housing problem means highly skilled talent, including graduates, are leaving the area, “and that’s one of the things we want to stop.”
“We’ve got world-class universities such as Plymouth and Exeter with world leading expertise, particularly in areas such as marine engineering. And in Exeter, we have the greatest concentration of top climate change scientists of any city in Europe.
“So actually, what we want to do is to retain that talent locally.
“That means we need to have homes for young people to live and aspire to, and the sort of high value added jobs that will encourage them to stay in what is a wonderful environment anyway.”
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