The Scourge of Second Homes in the South West

4321740-largeYCL Executive Committee and Communist Party Cornwall Branch member Owain examines second home ownership in Cornwall .

Cornwall and the South West region of England has a particular problem when it comes to second home owners. The region is a popular holiday destination for tourists and people seeking to move here and whilst there is nothing inherently wrong with either of those there is a less wholesome side to the region’s status as a popular destination. There are many people from outside the region who are wealthy enough to be able to afford to purchase ‘second homes’ in the area which inevitably creates problems for local communities.

Most second homes are occupied by the owners for only a short period of time each year, as little as two weeks in some cases. The rest of the time they lie unoccupied or occasionally rented out for a short term outside of the holiday season. This creates problems not only in terms of destroying local communities and turning many places into ghost towns, but it also increases pressure on the housing market and serves to drive up rental and purchase prices making it particularly hard on younger people and those on a low income.

Further pressure is added to the environment as cheaper homes have to be built elsewhere to accommodate local people in a needless waste of the British countryside enacted merely to provide wealthy holiday-seekers with a short visit in the summer. The argument that tourists are good for the economy is largely useless as tourism money is largely seasonal which means that many jobs in turn are only available during the summer months.

Cornwall is disproportionately affected with around 5% of housing taken as second homes with some towns and villages having over 70% of the homes used this way. With the average house price way over 10% of the average. The region also has the largest disparity between average wages and average house prices. Devon is similarly afflicted with around 3% of the county’s homes used as second homes although this is offset by large urban areas such as Plymouth and Exeter.

The Labour Party in Cornwall have recently proposed an increase on council tax levied from second home owners and wants the unitary authority: Cornwall Council, a council which as recently as 2012 actually offered second home owners a 10% discount on their surplus homes. The Tory government denied the Council authority to extract an increased rate of council tax on second homes above the 100% they are now charged which will not happen unless Cornwall receives devolved powers to do so, or unless central government passes legislation on the issue.

The Young Communist League acknowledges the bourgeois nature of second home ownership as having a large negative impact on communities in Cornwall and the South West and calls for Labour to campaign on this issue in parliament. An increased tax on second home owners would go some way to remediating the damage done by them to the region but nothing short of an outright ban on the unfair practise will offer hope to many of the regions inhabitants, many of whom are forced to leave the region for better career and accommodation opportunities.

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