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Housing

There are as many families waiting for social housing in Cornwall as there are holiday lets

The number of second homes in Cornwall exploded during the pandemic, pricing local people out of housing, local leaders say.

A street of homes in Cornwall

Local leaders say the high saturation of holiday lets is destroying communities. Image: Pixabay

The number of families waiting for social housing in Cornwall is now as high as the number of holiday lets, new figures show. 

Data from the Countryside Charity shows that there are now around 15,000 short-term holiday lets in the county – matching the number of families currently waiting for housing. 

The Campaign to Protect Rural England said the figures show that families are losing out on a stable home thanks to the number of properties now catering to tourists.

A high saturation of holiday lets in Cornwall has long been an issue in the county, which is one of the most popular tourist destinations in England. 

The pandemic exacerbated the trend, however, with analysis from real estate advisers the Altus Group showing the number of holiday homes trading as businesses had jumped by more than 20 per cent in 2020 when foreign holidays were not an option. 

Residents and local leaders have complained that the high number of holiday lets is driving up prices for local people and eroding local communities, with many homes lying empty for large parts of the year.

Owners of second homes currently benefit from small business rates relief if they declare an intention to let the property out to tourists, as well as avoiding council tax. 

In January, the government promised to address the issue by closing the “loophole” which allows second home owners to falsely claim they’re letting out a property to claim small business rates relief.

Following the change in rules in April 2023, holiday lets will have to be rented out for at least 70 days in a year to qualify, as well as being “available” to be rented out for at least 140 days a year.

Former Cornwall MP Andrew George criticised the move as “limp”, however, saying: “Proving [owners] let the property for just 70 of 365 days each year doesn’t in my view prove these second homes are serious intentional businesses.”

Problems associated with second homes aren’t limited to Cornwall, with Tim Farron, MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale in Cumbria regularly speaking out about the issue in his own constituency. 

In a recent parliamentary debate on second homes, Farron said the average house price in South Lakeland is now 11 times greater than the average household income, meaning that “families on low or middle incomes, and even those on reasonably good incomes, are completely excluded from the possibility of buying a home.”

He accused government ministers of failing to do anything “meaningful” to tackle the issue, which Farron said was decimating local communities. 

“Without a large enough permanent population, villages just die. Those who are left behind are isolated and often impoverished in communities whose life has effectively come to an end,” he said. 

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