Selaine Saxyby’s Westminster Hall  Debate on Affordable Housing (Devon and Cornwall) 

The debate was held on Wednesday and the record can be found here

The purpose of these debates is simply  to raise the profile of the issue being discussed. A Minister has to be present and respond.

Here are just a few extracts:

Sir Geoffrey Cox (yes him, the rich baritone and defender of tax havens)

(Torridge and West Devon) (Con)

Does my hon. Friend agree that the situation at the moment allows landlords to buy up good residences in towns such as Barnstaple and Bideford, register themselves as businesses, apply for small business interest rate relief, pay nothing to the community, either in council tax or business rates, and provide very little by way of employment, and that that racket has to be stopped?

Selaine Saxby 

(North Devon) (Con)

…I believe that we also need to go beyond just tackling business rates on short-term holiday lets; we need to tackle the inequalities between mortgage relief on long-term and short-term rentals, which are viewed as capital assets. Their profits are taxed differently, as returns on capital. Both types of property were built as homes, and they should be taxed comparably. Without a register of short-term holiday lets, I imagine that many are paying no tax at all, which is another opportunity for the Treasury. This is a step that could be taken rapidly to make the private rental sector more appealing to landlords, which is ultimately a step that we need to take quickly in order to begin to provide more housing in the south-west….

…..Will my right hon. Friend the Minister commit to assist our planning departments to reverse building where appropriate, to stop building properties solely for holiday lets or second homes, and to have a clause that exempts people from living there full time? It is one thing for holiday parks, which are designed that way, but actual housing is being built with this restriction in place along the North Devon coast. Clearly that is needed on occasion, but as we have such a shortage of long-term housing, can we not focus on this, given that we are short of the other necessary resources—land, builders and materials?

Will my right hon. Friend the Minister also commit to work with the Treasury to look at taxation reforms and how to tackle the issue of empty properties? We have an abundance of them in North Devon, but it is simply not viable for the council to spend its time and resource on tackling this issue. If we could breathe life into empty buildings, we could take steps to regenerate additional housing, without building all over the beautiful fields of North Devon. I keep being told that the councils have it in their remit to convert space above empty shops into homes. Will someone please come to Barnstaple and make that happen? We have so many empty units with huge storage areas, rather than flats, above them, and tackling this issue could transform our town centre as well as provide vital accommodation.

Finally, please can steps be taken to tackle the issue of viability and barriers to councils being able to build developments with more than an 18% social housing component? I know that we English believe that our home is our castle, but far too many of the residents of North Devon worry about not having a home at all. That causes mental health issues, which are exacerbated further by having so many shortages in mental health services, as we cannot recruit to fill the vacancies.

Many Devon MPs made contributions (eg Ben Bradford, Luke Pollard, Gary Streeter and Anthony Mangnall) but, of these, Owl found the brief interjections from Simon Jupp and Neil Parish the least impressive. Readers can check this for themselves.

“East Devon deserves better” Simon.

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