Thursday, 20 January 2022

Second Homes in Cornwall

Last week the Government announced a new policy to deal with the problem of second homeowners classifying their property as a holiday let in order to qualify for Business Rates and the associated reliefs.  Under the new rules, a holiday let must be marketed for at least 140 days per year and occupied as a holiday let for at least 70 days per year in order to not be considered a second home.  It is an important step forward to dealing with a longstanding challenge that some villages in Cornwall have faced.

Of the many problems that people bring me each week, difficulty getting access to housing is one of the most persistent and always has been.  Sometimes families that need access to a larger property find it difficult to move up if they are in social housing; local people can find it hard to buy their first property and get on the housing ladder; for those needing a bedsit or small flat, the quality of the accommodation and the overall living environment is often very poor.  The Covid pandemic has meant that people have not been able to holiday abroad and there has been a huge demand for temporary accommodation. As such, a number of private landlords withdrew their property from the residential market and used sites like Airbnb to get a larger income for temporary lets.  That has exacerbated an already difficult problem over the last twelve months or so. 

The causes of the shortage of housing are complex.  It is partly because we have more people moving to Cornwall to retire which increases demand for bungalows in particular.  Family breakdown means that more people live alone or families become split between two properties.  There are too many properties that are left unoccupied when they could be brought back into use and we need to build more housing but in the right places.  I have always argued that we should build new housing but focus on brownfield sites first.  It is worth the extra effort to try to deal with derelict sites at the same time as creating new homes.  Cornwall is a narrow peninsula with a beautiful landscape but it is a landscape that is vulnerable to insensitive development so getting the planning system right really matters.

While addressing housing supply is one thing, affordability remains the biggest barrier to homeownership. To address this, the Government is investing over £12 billion in affordable housing over five years, the largest investment in affordable housing in a decade. This includes the new £11.5 billion Affordable Homes Programme, which will provide up to 180,000 new homes across the country, should economic conditions allow. It will also deliver more than double the number of homes for social rent than the current programme, with around 32,000 social rent homes due to be delivered.

To help those who want to buy their first home, we are introducing a new mortgage scheme to provide a guarantee to lenders offering mortgages for those with a 5 per cent deposit for properties up to £600,000 in value. This was introduced on 19th April 2021 and will help people to secure loans with a smaller required deposit from the outset.

However, in many villages across Cornwall, especially in coastal areas, we have seen much of the housing stock being bought up by 2nd homeowners or turned into holiday homes. This takes much of the community out of these areas leaving few options for local people to live in the areas they often grew up in.  The policy announced this week is a step in the right direction.

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