Simon Jupp MP says many people who’ve lived in Devon for generations are being pushed further away by property prices they simply cannot afford
Sign up for our Newsletter to get the latest and breaking local news for the day
SIMON JUPP IS THE CONSERVATIVE MP FOR EAST DEVON
Many people who’ve lived in Devon and Cornwall for generations are being pushed further away by property prices they simply cannot afford. Those who work in our towns and villages increasing cannot afford to live there, resulting in a recruitment crisis as we’ve seen in places such as Salcombe and St Ives.
High property prices are affecting all corners of Devon. In my constituency of East Devon, the average salary is £28,800 and the average property price is around £330,000. We risk our communities becoming unsustainable if nothing is done. Getting people onto the housing ladder means making housing more affordable now.
Ministers should also consider the way we build homes and look to examples of best practice across the country. Mid Devon District Council is showing the way with eco-friendly modular home developments in Cullompton and Tiverton. I hope other councils will follow suit.
But the solution is not simply to build more houses. The government must also look at the rise of second home ownership and the increasing numbers of holiday cottages.
After a hard-fought campaign by Conservative MPs in the South West, the government has committed to closing a loophole that lets second homes avoid paying council tax by registering as a holiday rental, signing up for business rates and then receiving business rates relief. From April 2023, a property will only be assessed for business rates rather than council tax if the owner can provide evidence that it will be available for letting commercially, as self-catering accommodation, for short periods totalling at least 140 days in the coming year. This makes a crucial distinction between commercial self-catering businesses that provide employment for local communities, and holiday homes which lie empty for most of the year.
Ministers want to go further to clampdown on vacant homes in a bid to contain price inflation. Under plans being drawn up by the government, councils could be handed discretionary powers to increase council tax by 100% on second homes that are neither used nor let out by their owners for at least 70 days per year. I fully support this but firmly believe the government could be much bolder in its reforms.
Colleagues from across Devon and Cornwall recently debated the availability of affordable housing in our region in Parliament. In the debate, I said the government needs to look at bold policy interventions to tackle the impact of second-home ownership. One policy could be to allow councils to reserve a percentage of new builds for people with a local family or economic connection to an area.
For example, the purchaser or tenant could have to meet one of the following conditions: they currently live or work within 25 miles of the property; they were born within 25 miles of the property; or they can demonstrate a “care network” within 25 miles of the property. It would permanently protect a percentage of any new housing stock from second-home ownership, giving local families an opportunity to own or rent a home in places where prices are increasingly out of reach and often being sold to cash-buyers from elsewhere.
In the meantime, it is a positive development that council tax could double for second homeowners who leave their properties empty. Recent figures revealed that there were more than 11,000 homes classed as second homes in Devon.
Homes for long-term rent and buy are out of reach for many people who grew up in Devon, work locally, or need the support of family to look after a loved one. I have no issue with people moving here, but I do want to level the playing field to help local people have a home of their own.