Second home owners in some of Devon’s most desirable hotspots are to be clobbered with a double Council Tax bill. The move has been passed unanimously by councillors in the South Hams, a district which includes Dartmouth, Salcombe, Hope Cove and other sought-after seaside destinations.
Guy Henderson www.devonlive.com
They say it means owners will now have to pay their “fair share”. The council will now adopt the 100% Council Tax Second Homes Premium as soon as legislation allows. Nearly one in 12 homes across the district is a second home, and that figure is much higher in the coastal towns.
South Hams Council declared a housing crisis in September 2021 and backed its declaration with a 12-point action plan which included lobbying Government to allow local councils to charge double Council Tax on second or holiday homes to ensure they contribute fairly towards the services they receive.
Their lobbying proved successful when in May this year the Government published the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill which included proposals aimed at addressing the negative impact of second homes on the supply of homes for local people. The Bill is likely to become law from April 2024 at the earliest.
Leader of South Hams District Council, Cllr Judy Pearce said: “The long-term viability of communities within the South Hams has been detrimentally affected by the level of second home ownership. The sheer quantity of second homes means that house prices are pushed upwards.
“This can deny a home to a local resident as prices are pushed outside of what they can reasonably afford. This is especially acute for the younger generation.
“I went to Westminster in November to speak to a House of Lords Select Committee to discuss the challenges around short-term lets and the impact that has in the South Hams. It’s truly concerning that with just under 4,000 second homes in the district, this means that nearly one in every 12 homes is a second home.
“We’re not declaring war on second homes. We’re simply levelling the field to make it easier for our local residents to find somewhere to live, let alone somewhere to buy.
“We know that the majority of people can’t afford the prices of houses around the area at the moment. We do stand in solidarity with our local residents because they all have a right to have somewhere decent to live.”
Cllr Julian Brazil, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrat group, added: “This is absolutely the right way forward. It will make a massive difference to us. To people who say it is an attack on second homeowners, it is not. What it is, is asking them to pay a fair share to our communities. They’re in the lucky position to own not one, but two houses, when many of our local families here struggle to own just one.
“The fact that they pay a little bit more should be compared to the increase in value of their second homes. Before the latest hiccup in the economy, house prices in the South Hams increased by around 25% in the last year. Increases of hundreds of thousands of pounds. We are asking them to pay a little bit extra to support the services that we struggle to deliver.
“I’d like to pay tribute to the Leader of the Council. She has worked incredibly hard lobbying MPs for them to understand the issues. I tabled a similar motion about 15 years ago without support but, we have got there in the end.”