Cornwall Council planning crackdown on former council homes being used as holiday lets

Councillors suspect dozens of former council homes are being listed online as holiday properties. Credit: BPM Media.

Cornwall Council is planning a crackdown on the number of former council homes being rented out as holiday lets or student houses.

The local authority has said it plans to establish a dedicated investigation and enforcement unit to tackle the issue as it fears there are potentially dozens of ex-council properties being let out.

Most homes purchased under the Government's Right to Buy scheme usually restrict the owner from renting the property out as a holiday let or as a house of multiple occupation (HMO). This is to ensure that these homes are protected for use by local people.

But despite these covenants, the council believes many of these are being advertised on holiday letting site Airbnb.

In a report on the housing crisis in the Duchy, Cornwall Council is proposing a dedicated unit to clamp down on the practice.

The report says as well as evidence of Right to Buy homes being used as holiday lets, they are also being rented out as accommodation for students.

Cornwall is currently struggling to house its growing student population, with some saying they are considering living in a tent ahead of the academic year beginning later this month.

The proposals laid out in the report are set to be put to the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Leadership Board later this week.

Under the plans, the council's investigation unit would identify former council homes being wrongly let out on Airbnb and similar sites. They would then ensure these properties are used as a main residence.

The issue of Right to Buy homes not being kept for local peoples has united Cornwall Council across the political spectrum.

Labour councillor Jayne Kirkham highlighted the issue earlier this year after hearing that there could be dozens of properties affected in Falmouth alone.

Her comments echoed those of former Cabinet member for housing Andrew Mitchell and were also supported by Conservative councillors and current Cabinet members David Harris and Olly Monk.

But the new unit is only one strand of the Conservative administration's plan to tackle the housing crisis.

Cornwall Council are seeking to make sure more homes are safeguarded for local people.

It is also looking to continue the council's work to bring empty homes back into use. While that work has reduced the number from 3,000 in 2020 to 2,200, long-term empty homes are seen as “a hugely wasted resource”.

It is also recognised that empty homes can sometimes be nuisance and blight to locals living nearby.

The council is planning an empty homes campaign and a taskforce which will offer grants and loans to help bring homes back into use, while also using the council’s compulsory purchase and enforcement powers where necessary.

Cornwall Council will work with town and parish councils to identify homes that are usually vacant.

A spokesperson for Airbnb said: “Airbnb is built on the foundation of helping people afford their homes and making communities stronger.

"Across the UK, the majority of Hosts share a space in their own home and nearly half of UK Hosts say that the additional income is an economic lifeline.

"We take housing concerns seriously and whilst we have not been approached by Cornwall Council on this issue, we stand ready to support them on this matter.”