COUNCILLORS have voted to allow second home owners up to double council tax in a bid to bring more funding into the borough’s coffers to address the housing crisis, writes Sarah Pitt.
The move, comes in advance of legislation called the Levelling Up and Regneration Bill, which will if it receives Royal Assent will allow local authorities to charge a ‘council tax premium’ of 100 per cent on second homes from April 2024.
This, together with closing another loophole allowing airbnb owners to classify holiday lets as businesses, thus avoiding council tax altogether, aims to bring more income into coffers to solve the borough’s housing crisis. West Devon Borough Council leader Cllr Neil Jory told the full council on Tuesday: ‘We reckon there are around 650 second homes and this would bring in £157,000 in West Devon alone and that doesn’t being to take into account what would go to Devon county and the police service, fire service and town and parish councils.’
Mary Tavy ward member Cllr Terry Pearce responded: ‘There is no guarantee that the extra money will be going to provide much needed affordable homes in West Devon. I am wondering when this bill is going through parliament to generate extra income from 2024, whether that money could be used to provide affordable housing, because we are in a dire situation, we are in a housing crisis and there is not enough affordable housing and that need will keep growing.’
Cllr Jory replied: ‘I wouldn’t be looking to make a commitment now as to how that money is spent. It may well be that we would use it for affordable housing but I think that would be a decision for the council at the time.’ Cllr Mark Ridges, commenting on the business rates change, said some airbnb owners had been able to receive £10,000 cheques in lost income compensation when the covid crisis hit. ‘It is a loophole that needs closing,’ he said.