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Housing in Devon: locals vs tourists?

  • by JW

The problems and the proposed solutions to the ‘broken housing market’ in the county.


Last month, the i-newspaper interviewed a Devon MP on the state of housing:

Luke Pollard is a Labour MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport. Last December, he helped to launch a campaign called “First Homes not Second Homes”, a five-point plan to fix England’s broken housing market. “Local people can’t afford to live where they work,” he tells i. “There is a shortage of people to work in the health service, in schools, on farms. The problem is so much property is being used as second homes or for [holiday lets].”

Pollard wants the government to give councils in England the power to quadruple taxes on holiday lets and unused second homes. He would also like to see a community infrastructure levy, administered by local authorities, to support local shops, pharmacies, post offices and pubs as well as a licensing regime that would ensure a minimum of 51 per cent of homes in any community are reserved for local people.
“I don’t think any community should be majority owned by people who don’t live there. We are seeing the slow death of rural and coastal villages,” says Pollard.

The second home wars: ‘We are seeing the slow death of rural and coastal villages’

This is something East Devon’s MP has talked about – most recently in July:

Some changes have been made. Higher rates of stamp duty on additional properties, closing tax loopholes and plans to let councils double council tax on vacant second homes. It’s a good start, but more action is needed.

I welcome a new review into short-term tourist accommodation which will explore the impact and options for communities like ours. Measures being considered include a registration kitemark scheme with spot checks for compliance with rules such as gas safety, and physical checks of premises to ensure regulations in areas including health and safety, noise, and anti-social behaviour are obeyed.

Short-term holiday lets bring visitors to the places we love. Landlords and second-home owners who see property as an investment opportunity also make it harder for local people to have a home of their own.

We clearly need a better balance for communities in East Devon and the South West.

‘We need better balance over second homes in East Devon’ | Sidmouth Herald

Last week, ITV looked at a report from north of the county:

North Devon says it wants to develop a licensing scheme with physical checks of premises, citing other impacts from some holiday lets including anti-social behaviour.

But it says that should be supported by other measures, “such as the requirement to apply for planning consent for change of use where residential premises are converted to holiday lets. This would allow control over the number of holiday lets and allow councils to prevent areas becoming saturated.

“Other measures that might be outside the scope of this call for evidence include addressing the tax advantages for owners of holiday let premises and also introducing the same environmental requirements as are imposed on private landlords.”

Almost half of properties are second homes and holiday lets in parts of North Devon | ITV News West Country

And today, Devon Live also travelled north:

Nestled one-and-a-half miles from Woolacombe, residents of coastal village Mortehoe have always been experts at making their living wherever they could… One trade that still flourishes to this day is the tourism industry, which has continued strong for over 150 years. The tourist industry was pioneered by Elizabeth Yeo, who in 1877 kickstarted a tourist trade by setting up guests in her home, Sea View Cottage.

While Parkin Estates describes the village as “a charming, sleepy village almost untouched by time”, the village has seen a dramatic transformation in the last decade. While community life and tourism have gone hand in hand in Morthoe for over 150 years, changes in the tourism industry over the last decade have tipped the scales out of locals’ favour. In recent years, North Devon has found itself in the centre of a national housing crisis – with residential properties purchased to be converted into holiday lets and second homes. Mortehoe Parish, which incorporates both Mortehoe and Woolacombe is the most impacted parish in North Devon, with 47% of all residential properties (633) now registered as holiday lets or second homes.
Community Reporter Alex Davis visited the village to talk to residents about how their community lives on despite a declining population…

Life in the desolate Devon village taken over by holiday lets and second homes – Devon Live

Finally, here is a particularly heartfelt piece from the Telegraph last month:

In recent years, however, countless more holidaymakers have discovered the beauty of Devon. No longer is it a place you pass through on the way to Cornwall, but a destination in its own right. And though I can’t possibly begrudge sharing it, I feel it is becoming a victim of its own success…

In the holiday season, single-track roads are clogged with cars and tourist coaches. The countryside and coastline is being eaten up by huge caravan parks. And there’s a chronic housing shortage, partly because homeowners are renting their properties to the lucrative holiday let market, rather than local people. When houses do come up for rent, competition is still fierce. In my remote little village, one cottage had 70 viewings, and following a bidding war, was rented for twice its usual rate. The situation is so dire that a friend who works locally has been living in a barn since April…

There are, however, ways of ameliorating the effect tourism is having on the county… 

Devon is England’s greatest county – but it’s on the verge of being ruined