Councillors have voted to double council tax on second homes in North Yorkshire in a bid to make more homes available for local people priced out of the market.
The county council made the “ground-breaking” decision today (Wednesday) – which doesn’t affect York.
But councillors noted that it will need government legislation to pass before is can be enacted as planned in April 2024.
Tory councillor David Chance told the meeting that hardly any of the homes in two picturesque seaside villages in his ward were now occupied permanently and the current situation was “tearing the heart out of our communities”.
Mr Chance said: “In Staithes, for instance, we have 12 permanent residents in the lower village. In Runswick Bay we have 11 permanent resident in the lower village.
“All the remaining houses are either second homes or holiday lets.
“Whitby people cannot afford to purchase a home in their own town.”
Mr Chance said: “Whitby wages can’t even afford ‘affordable’ homes.
“We’ve build a lot of homes in Whitby recently and they’ve all been snapped up by outsiders.
“A lot have gone to second homes and a lot have gone to holiday homes and its tearing the heart out of our communities.”
Gareth Dadd, the Conservative deputy leader of the council, said the aim of imposing the 100% premium was to either encourage second-home owners to sell to local people or to use the estimated £14 million that the increase will raise to promote house-building and other measures.
He told the meeting in Northallerton: “It is a ground-breaking policy. In many ways, we have led the way.”
Mr Dadd said: “I support this not because I support greater taxation but because I see the real challenges for local people in finding affordable housing.”
He said the money that this measure could raise “could be transformational”.
Another Conservative councillor, Yvonne Peacock, said: “If you are living in our local communities and you see in winter all the houses with no lights on, you see when you attend events that you no longer have the same amount of people putting on the events – seeing people no longer able to live and work where they want because they can’t afford to rent or to buy – that is why this policy is so important.”
She said: “This will make a huge difference to our communities if we take this forward and I hope government will also take note.”
‘The wrong way round’
But independent councillor Stuart Parsons said: “Penalising achievers, penalising those who aspire – having been encouraged to do so by the Conservative Party themselves – seems to be the wrong way round of dealing with this problem.
“The way to deal with this problem is, quite simply, that the county council should purchase properties on the open market.
“They should establish their own housing trust or housing association and put restrictions on those properties so they remain in local occupancy.”
Mr Parsons said the new policy ran the risk that many second-home owners would “flip” their properties into holiday lets, so avoiding the council tax.
He said: “The county council is running the risk with this policy of cutting its own throat.”
Conservative councillor Andrew Lee said he supported the measure but was concerned “demonising second-home owners” oversimplified the issue.
Mr Lee criticised the planning authorities in the Yorkshire Dales, saying: “They don’t build enough because, in my opinion, they don’t want to build.
“They want to preserve these areas as a living museum.”
The Yorkshire Dales and the North Yorkshire coast are among the most desirable places to live in the UK.
According to the county council, the average cost of a property in the Yorkshire Dales is nearly £400,000, while the weekly wage in North Yorkshire is just over £530.
According to the National Housing Federation (NHF), there are 8,199 second homes in North Yorkshire – the highest number in the Yorkshire and Humber region.
NHF chief executive Kate Henderson said: “There is a chronic shortage of truly affordable homes in rural areas, and where people can’t afford to live, they can’t afford to work, which ultimately damages rural growth and productivity.
“I’m glad to see that the revenue raised from these measures will be directed to providing the homes that communities sorely need.”
The council said the introduction of a 100% premium on council tax bills for second homes could generate in excess of £14 million a year in additional revenue.
It said the Scarborough district has the potential to bring in almost half of that figure due to the large number of second homes in coastal towns such as Whitby, Scarborough and Filey.
Richmondshire could generate about £1.8 million, while the Craven, Harrogate and Ryedale districts could each provide about £1.5 million in extra revenue.