English Tory council to follow Welsh lead with tax hike on second homes
Council tax on second homes in North Yorkshire could double in a bid to tackle the affordable housing crisis.
Councillors on North Yorkshire County Council’s executive have voted for a 100% premium on council tax bills on second homes to be brought in within the next two years.
The proposal will be considered at a full council meeting in November and, if it is passed, the Conservative controlled county will become one of the first in England to adopt new UK Government measures aimed at making more homes available for locals.
Backers hoped the plan would deter people from owning second homes, and that the millions raised by the premium could be used to introduce more housing in areas particularly affected by the affordability crisis.
When similar measures were introduced in Wales in 2020 the Welsh Conservatives criticised them as penalising people who were “bringing much-welcomed investment to boost our local economies”.
The Welsh Government subsequently decided in March of this year to allow local authorities to increase tax premiums on second homes and long-term empty properties to 300%, effective from April 2023.
Council leader Carl Les said radical action was needed as North Yorkshire has the highest number of second homes in the region.
He said: “There is no simple solution to the issue of affordable housing, second homes and the impact they have on housing for local communities.
“But we recognise that bold and decisive action needs to be taken to deal with the affordable housing crisis in North Yorkshire, and that is why the executive has decided to pursue the policy of a council tax premium.
“It may not be popular with everyone, but that is not the key factor in this decision.
“We need to act to try and ensure more local people have access to housing in their own communities, and the premium on council tax bills for second homes will be a significant step towards achieving that.
“Second homes and the impact they can have on the availability of housing has been a long-running problem that has affected communities not just in North Yorkshire but across the country, and this was reinforced by the findings of the independent North Yorkshire Rural Commission.”
The council tax premium could bring in more than £14m annually, experts have said.
Almost half that figure would come from the Scarborough district due to the large number of second homes in the seaside town and neighbouring Whitby and Filey.
Measures will also be put in place to ensure second home owners do not avoid the double tax by claiming their property is a holiday let.
And checks will be made by council officers to stop couples with two homes pretending that they have split up and that they are living separately in two homes.
Acute housing shortage
The council’s executive member for finance, Coun Gareth Dadd, said: “We know that there is an acute shortage of housing for local people in many communities in North Yorkshire, and this has been an issue that has long affected their opportunities to actually buy their own home.
“Places such as the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors as well as coastal towns such as Scarborough and Whitby are without question wonderful places to live.
“But with that comes the fact that these areas also see very high numbers of second homes, which affects the availability of housing for local people.
“The scheme to introduce the council tax premium will ideally see these second homes brought back into use for local people.
“But if not, then there will be a valuable new revenue stream created that will help fund council priorities, such as helping introduce more housing for local communities.”
House prices in the Yorkshire Dales are about a third higher than the county’s average. The average cost of a property in the Dales is nearly £400,000, while the weekly wage in North Yorkshire is just over £530.
A parish poll held in Whitby in June saw 93% of voters agree that new houses should be restricted to full-time occupation and not be allowed to be holiday lets, although the poll had no power to bind policy makers.
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