The Government will be giving local authorities the power to double council tax on second homes in plans due to be announced in next week’s Queen’s Speech. The new council tax rules for second and empty homes will be introduced as part of the UK Government’s commitment to invest in local communities and drive levelling up across the country.
Maxine Denton www.devonlive.com
In Devon alone, figures presented to Devon County Council’s cabinet earlier this month showed that there were more than 11,000 homes classed as second homes. It also revealed that in October, there were 640 homes in Devon that were being charged the Empty Homes Premium as they had been empty for more than two years – 46 of them in the South Hams and 33 in West Devon.
Under the new rules, English local authorities will gain ‘discretionary powers’ to levy a premium of up to 100 per cent on council tax bills for second homes that are furnished but not occupied as a sole or main residence. As well as supporting and improving services, this extra funding could be used to help ensure council tax is kept low for local residents.
Other homes simply left empty could also see the standard council tax rate doubled after 12 months – as opposed to two years at present. It is thought that the move will discourage owners from leaving properties vacant for a long time, while injecting money back into local areas.
In addition to having the power to apply greater premiums at a level of their choice, Local Authorities will have flexibility on how to spend the funds raised and can decide to prioritise keeping council tax bills low for local households. This will help with plans to deliver affordable housing, social care and children’s services.
Both West Devon and South Hams councils have declared housing a crisis. Due to a number of factors, including the lack of rented accommodation which is available for longer than six months, an excessive rise in house prices due to second home-owners, the conversion of properties to Airbnb’s and people moving into the District since the pandemic. South Hams District Council last Autumn said it has no choice but to declare a Housing Crisis.
West Devon councillors in February heard that house prices in the borough are the least affordable in Devon with average housing costs at over 12 times the average salary. An almost complete lack of long term rented accommodation was highlighted as one of the leading problems contributing to the crisis alongside the increasing trend for people to move to the area from urban locations.