Ryeview – May 2003

‘Ethnic cleansing’ by second homes

John Clark writes…

First published: May 2003 – Gazette & Herald

Second homes are a blight on rural communities. Many places have so many of these empty houses that during the week and for many months of the year they become ‘ghost villages’. This is only the start of the problem. The well off arrive with a cheque book funded by a large South East salary: local people don’t stand a chance. House prices rocket out of the reach of the young and even the average waged. Our communities were vibrant with extended families representing all generations. Now the villages and dales have become residential areas for the elderly, middle-aged survivors and Executives. It is ‘ethnic cleansing’ driven by a lack of planning and greed. Rural families who have lived in villages for centuries let alone decades are being driven out.

The above is ignored by the powers that be and is even encouraged. Some councils charged second homes no council tax, some gave a 50% discount and some, like Ryedale, have reduced the discount to 10% i.e. it charges 90% council tax. Discounts are normally given to encourage something. I rarely meet anyone in our rural communities who want to encourage this destruction.

There are also very strong environmental reasons for opposing second homes. Let us say that in the U.K. there are 25 million households in 25 million houses. If one family then buys a second home there is a shortfall of one house. We need to build one more. On this basis the more people with second homes the more houses we need to build. This results in more roads, more traffic, and an even greater loss of countryside, farmland and environment.

Those who smoke, drink or drive gas guzzling cars all pay heavy taxes. These activities are seen as luxuries and their use is harmful to society. In logic terms second homes fit into this category.

There is a minority that argues strongly: “If I have the money then I should be free to buy a ‘second home’ if I want to.” Those of this ‘free market’ persuasion have of course some questions to answer.

  • Do they want the traffic level on the little ‘B’ road leading to their village to increase so much that it becomes an ‘A’ road?
  • Instead of looking out onto countryside do they want to look out onto more housing?

These are two inevitable results of turning ‘homes’ into houses and yet another commodity.

What is the solution to this crisis? The prohibition approach is unlikely to work. Making something illegal usually leads to law breaking. A solution with a higher chance of success is taxation. Local councils should not give a council tax discount on second homes. They are second houses and therefore a luxury. The taxing level should be four hundred percent i.e. second homes should attract five times the normal council tax.

This would have several benefits. It would at worst slow down the above abuse of our villages. It may even produce a reduction in the number of these ‘executive toys’. If this happened the price of houses in the villages and dales would fall. Local people, particularly the young would be able to get on the housing ladder. Our communities would slowly regenerate.

To do nothing and let the present migration from our countryside continue is totally unacceptable.

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