Cornwall's housing situation needs 'urgent intervention' - St Ives MP

Padstow in Cornwall (pictured) has a high number of second homes Credit: PA

Around 100 families compete for every available three-bedroom home in parts of Cornwall.

Now MPs in the South West have called on the Government to do more to step in to make homes easier and cheaper for people in the counties to rent or buy to live in.

St Ives MP Derek Thomas led a debate in Parliament today (December 7). He warned 100 families compete for every three-bedroom home which becomes available in his West Cornwall constituency, which also includes the Isles of Scilly.

He says the problem has become worse during the pandemic and the increasing demand for second homes has driven up prices even further. 

MPs agreed those struggling to find homes to buy or rent often includes key workers who the counties need to work for organisations like the NHS or in schools.

In some cases, key workers are unable to take up new jobs as they have nowhere to live - and so skills are being lost from the far South West.

Derek Thomas welcomed funding from the Government's "Towns Fund" announced during the G7 Summit earlier this year for Penzance, Redruth and St Ives, some of which can be used to convert derelict buildings into affordable housing.  

A number of MPs including the Totnes MP Anthony Mangnall echoed calls to strengthen the rules around taxation of second homes.

Currently many owners of second homes qualify to pay business rates and not council tax and MPs argue they therefore qualify for rates relief too, thus making it cheaper to run their second property and not contribute to the local area.

Mr Mangnall went on to say that when the pandemic started these homes were eligible for some Covid business grants too.

Cornwall Council alone paid holiday home owners almost £170million in coronavirus grants.

Mr Mangnall said in Devon of the 13,593 properties, the "vast majority" claimed for the Covid grants".

He said many would have been businesses which deserved help but added he "personally knows of many examples where lots of people were claiming for this money because they were just putting their second home onto the business rates so they could escape paying council tax and then in the circumstances of Covid benefit, that is totally unacceptable".

Labour in the South West has today launched its housing manifesto, at its heart is a call to prioritise "first homes not second homes".

Labour councillors in Cornwall and Devon along with Luke Pollard the Plymouth Sutton and Devonport MP have released a five point plan.

1. Councils to be allowed to raise Council Tax (up to quadrupling it) on holiday lets or unused second homes.

2. License second homes and holiday lets with a minimum of 51% of houses in any community going to locals.

3. Powers for councils to introduce a levy on holiday lets to support local shops, pharmacies and post offices.

4. Build more affordable and social homes in South West.

5. Keep the discounts on news homes for renters/buyers after first family move out.

Labour MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport Luke Pollard said: “The South West is the region most affected by second homes and holiday lets.

Plymouth MP Luke Pollard Credit: ITV News

"We welcome people investing and enjoying our region, but we must ensure that local people are not priced and pushed out of their communities.

"That is why I am calling for the South West to be the first region to commit to a first home not second home strategy so local people don’t have to move out of their community to get a job or a home they can afford.

The Government says building more homes is a priority as are schemes to help people buy homes, like 'Help to Buy' which ministers say has now helped 300,000 people to buy new homes in England.

Specifically around second homes ministers say they have changed the rules on stamp duty and increased costs to people living abroad buying homes here. 

However there was not a commitment to change the much demanded change to council tax policy for second homes, only considering giving local councils more discretion.

Housing Minister Christopher Pincher told MPs the Government has introduced a threshold for the business rate loophole which owners of second homes can take advantage of and that local councils can increase council tax to 100% for second homes but he will "consider very carefully" giving further discretion to council chiefs.

Having listened to the debate which included MPs from across the UK, but was dominated by South West MPs, it is clear politicians of all parties agree there needs to be change to the UK's housing laws, especially how second homes are regulated and how local people can be protected from being priced out of new homes where they grew up.

There is also an acceptance across the political divides that the UK has a housing crisis. 

Also MPs are agreeing the overall problems need fixing and that means the pressure will only grow on ministers at the newly renamed department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to fix the solution quickly.

If solutions aren't forthcoming the pressure on the Government will only continue to rise as housing raises up the political agenda.