Second homes have become an acute problem after the pandemic. During lockdown anyone and everyone with coin headed for the coast and the mountains to buy boltholes and piles where they could isolate splendidly.
This isn’t a new problem, but is acute in areas such as Cornwall and Gwynedd and Anglesey in Wales. These are areas where income is low and house prices are high.
So, what is the solution ? From charging half the rate of council tax a decade ago, local councils are now proposing 400% council tax. Since usually applies to the most expensive properties, you may be talking about £2000 pa becoming £8000.
But it’s easy to get around, just declare your Welsh or Cornish home as your main residence, and there will be no hike on your other (usually English) home. You can redefine in future to make sure you minimise other taxes.
So, what is the answer ? First of all, align voting with residence. A person can only register to vote in one place and this should be their home. Any other home, for all other taxation purposes, is a second home.
Also, do away with using rates for holiday homes, use council tax.
However, taxing people who are spending money locally and, arguably, bringing wealth into these communities, and even driving down property values is the wrong approach.
What needs to happen is that areas for local development are identified and any ’tourism taxes’ are ring fenced for creating communities that cannot be bought into by outsiders. Areas such as Botwnog/Sarn in Gwynedd and Llangefni in Anglesey, for example. Thousands of affordable homes, from container villages to comfortable estates should be built around facilities that must include schools, health, entertainment and shopping provision.
In so many parts of the developing world, housing is illegally provisioned, and this also needs to change (South Africa is an interesting study in this).
The Great Recession was created by the misprovision of housing in an ’open’ market in the US.
Does this create an ’other side of the tracks’, dualist community, and introduce ’trailer park economies’. Yes, it does, but we need to recognise that if we embrace capitalism, that we will always live in an unequal world.
What is required, all over the world, is cheaper ways to enter the property market and the ability to then trade up or securely stay put.