Cornwall launches latest clampdown on second homeowners as council sells Grade II listed flats worth £640,000 for £1 to ensure affordable housing for locals
- Three Seas Community Land Trust offered to carry out a £1million refurbishment
- 11 flats in Looe, Cornwall will be released to the trust to avoid costly maintenance
Cornwall Council has agreed to sell Grade II listed flats worth £640,000 for £1 to block second homeowners and ensure affordable housing for locals.
The council’s cabinet approved a recommendation to release the 11 Coastguard Flats on North Road in Looe to a community land trust to avoid costly maintenance.
Three Seas Community Land Trust offered to carry out a £1million refurbishment through grant funding.
Councillors said the deal meant it would remain as affordable housing in the picturesque fishing village, which has a population of 5,280 people.
Second home ownership and holiday lets are blamed for a shortage of affordable housing in the county.
In January, Cornwall Council approved plans to charge owners of second homes in the picturesque county double council tax in a bid to clamp down on the rising cost of rent driven up by a falling housing stock.
According to the council’s database, there were 13,292 second homes registered in the county – many of which are left empty during off-peak holiday seasons. Meanwhile, the waiting list on the the social housing register has more than doubled over the last three years, according to the Big Issue.
In May last year, the Government published the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill and subject to it being passed, the 100 per cent council tax premium on second homes could be enforced by April 2025.
This could raise an estimated £25m per year for the local authority, which Councillor David Harris, deputy leader of Cornwall Council, said would support council services.
On the sale of the 11 Coastguard flats, Mr Harris said: ‘This will retain much-needed affordable housing provision in Looe.’
He said an open market sale would likely have resulted in ‘the loss of affordable housing provision’, impacting negatively on the housing service by ‘increasing demand for temporary accommodation’.
He added: ‘A community-led redevelopment scheme would ensure the flats would still be used for affordable housing provision.’
Refurbishment of the building was deemed ‘financially unviable’ by Cornwall Housing in 2021.
The building was declared surplus to the council’s needs.
According to Three Seas Community Land Trust, who are being the ‘big idea’, most of the small one-bed flats are empty, and Cornwall Council isn’t able to repair them.
On the Trusts’ website, it said: ‘They could have been sold at auction, for second homes.
‘We want to create a community trust for Looe to buy and refurbish the flats, then let them at low rents to local people’.
With support from Looe councillors Edwina Hannaford and Armand Toms, Three Seas Community Land Trust stepped in with an offer to carry out a full refurbishment of the properties at a cost of over £1million, to be achieved by grant funding.
The cabinet meeting heard the project would be hard to achieve without grant funding, which is available from Homes England, which supports the project.
Councillor Hannaford said: ‘Providing secure affordable housing is incredibly important for the people of Looe. The lack of affordable housing in Looe is a real emergency, replicated across Cornwall.’
This comes as a local authority in Wales moved ahead with its plans to home-owners to acquire planning permission for second homes or short-term holiday lets.
In August, Cyngor Gwynedd council announced that properties previously used as second homes will now be eligible for a first-time buyer’s grant to renovate empty houses in a bid to help local people get onto the property ladder.
The council declared that almost 10 per cent of all houses in the county are second homes, which some areas in Gwynedd, the figure is significantly higher, such as Aberdyfi (43 per cent), Trawsfynydd (42 per cent) and Llanengan (39.8 per cent).
However, the controversial housing scheme has faced criticism after North Wales Tourism accused the council of ‘anti-tourism’ policies and a north Wales Senedd Member described the plans as ‘barmy’.
Councillor Craig ab Iago, Cyngor Gwynedd Cabinet Member for Housing and Property said: ‘While many people in Gwynedd can’t buy their first home, hundreds of houses in Gwynedd are in the hands of owners who already have another home.
‘Very often second homes are empty for long periods of the year, and many are in poor condition.
‘Furthermore, 65.5 per cent of Gwynedd’s population has been priced out of the housing market, and the number is as high as 96 per cent in areas with many holiday homes’.
‘Adapting the grant eligibility to include former second homes makes perfect sense and is another way we can assist the residents of Gwynedd in taking the first step to buying a home locally.
Gwynedd’s council has already enforced a 150 per cent council tax premium on second home owners.
In Devon, holiday home rental company Airbnb was blamed for the 50 per cent fall in private lettings with more properties switching from long-term to short-term lets
The Devon Housing Commission (DHC) called for measures to curb short-term lets with regulations that include the introduction of a host register.
According to BBC News, evidence from the University of Exeter suggested an increase of more than 10 per cent in second homes across Devon since 2021, with one in 11 homes in South Hams being either second, holiday or empty homes.
An Airbnb spokesperson told BBC News: ‘Airbnb welcomes regulation and has long-led calls for the introduction of a Host register to give authorities the information they need.
‘The typical UK host rents their space for just three nights a month, and we want to work with policymakers to support everyday Hosts and clampdown on speculators that drive local concerns.’
In April, Leveling-Up Secretary Michael Gove said: ‘Tourism brings many benefits to our economy but in too many communities we have seen local people pushed out of cherished towns, cities and villages by huge numbers of short-term lets.
‘I’m determined that we ensure that more people have access to local homes at affordable prices, and that we prioritise families desperate to rent or buy a home of their own close to where they work.’