Abolish second home tax relief, says charity

SECOND homes owners in Suffolk should have their council tax relief abolished, says a leading housing charity.

Shelter has called for the revenue-raising move to help tackle local housing pressures and deliver more affordable homes.

But it has only received a cautious welcome from figures in Suffolk Coastal, which has the highest number of second homes in the county.

Statistics obtained yesterday by the EADT show the area has 2,596 second homes, against Waveney with 1,155 and Mid Suffolk with 386. All three authorities give second home owners a 10% council discount; the maximum reduction allowed is 50%.

“I’m not asking for the change but if it happens it would not be something I’d campaign against,” said Therese Coffey, Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal. “What’s important is that we continue to do what we can to build homes and free up homes that are not being used.”

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“Second homes are used in a number of ways as holiday accommodation and that is important for tourism.

“I’m not unsympathetic as long as second home owners are given their full rights, Suffolk Coastal makes it difficult for them to vote, for example.”

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Julian Worster, mayor of Aldeburgh, which has 561 second homes that make up 29% of the town’s stock, said: “I don’t think it would solve the problem, but it may well help.

“Quite frankly if you can afford a second home it is not because of a council tax reduction, I don’t think it would make any difference, it would just be built into their budgets.

“I think second home owners are a very emotive subject in Aldeburgh, the property prices are quite high. It makes it difficult for local people to afford houses.

“I think resentment is too strong, it’s very sad that local families can’t get onto the property ladder and they have to go farther afield.

Wil Gibson, of Suffolk ACRE, said: “We will certainly support the reduction or abolition of the subsidy because I think if people have a second home they should pay the full rate.

“Particularly around some of the rural and coastal areas second homes account for a significant number of the housing stock especially in small villages where there’s restrictions on development.”

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, says: “Our housing crisis has never run deeper, with millions on waiting lists and increasing numbers of young people unable to get on the housing ladder in their local area. But with government cuts of more than 60 per cent to the budget for new homes, we need to explore every possible way in which existing housing stock can be used to ease our desperate shortage of affordable homes.

“The council tax discount is effectively a tax break for people with second homes which often lie empty for large parts of the year.

“Enabling councils to respond to local housing pressures and charge the full rate of council tax, or higher, would mean they could raise vital revenue that could be used to deliver affordable housing for local people.”

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