Inquiry into 'problems' of second homes

AN INVESTIGATION is to be launched into the social and economic problems being caused by Suffolk's 5,000 second homes.Many picture-postcard towns and villages in the county, particularly along the coast have become highly sought-after locations for holiday homes.

AN INVESTIGATION is to be launched into the social and economic problems being caused by Suffolk's 5,000 second homes.

Many picture-postcard towns and villages in the county, particularly along the coast have become highly sought-after locations for holiday homes.

But the high demand has sparked a surge in house prices and many local people have been priced out of the market and businesses have been hit.

Now county and district council officials will spend the next four months compiling a report on the issue and deciding what, if anything, can be done.


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Peter Austin, leader of Waveney District Council, said the 1,350 second homes in that area distorted the housing market and forced prices up.

"I think it's grossly unfair that a young family cannot get tax relief on a mortgage whereas if you are buying a property as a business you get tax relief," he said.

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"The main impact of course is the fact it distorts the housing market and forces up prices of small cottages which would otherwise be used by local people raising their families. They have to move out to other areas where they can afford.

"Also, facilities in communities tend to reduce and also schools because owners are not living in the village."

There are presently about 5,285 second homes across Suffolk, with areas such as Southwold, Walberswick, Aldeburgh, and Woodbridge particular hotspots.

Earlier this year, district and borough councils in the county took advantage of new Government legislation, which allowed them to reduce the discount on council tax offered on second properties from 50% to 10%.

The decision has led to savings worth hundreds of thousands of pounds and will help keep increases in council tax down this year.

The county council's investigation into second homes will measure the impact on the communities and consider possible solutions. It will discuss the issue at a full council meeting today.

Bryony Rudkin, leader of the county council, said: "We wanted to look at the whole of the council tax discussion about second home ownership and how we tax people, and also the added impact of what second homes have on the economy, especially in Suffolk.

"How does this affect services? There are obviously factors like house prices in places such as Southwold. We are literally at the stage of investigating it."

Suffolk Coastal district council has the highest proportion of Suffolk's second homes, accounting for 2,499, St Edmundsbury Borough Council has 351, and Forest Heath District Council has 182. Of the 1,350 second homes in Waveney, Southwold has 388 of them.

WilGibson, chief executive of Suffolk ACRE, said: "We are trying to have a better understanding as to what the impact of second homes has on services in the community in terms of supply of housing, house prices and other things.

"It could well be looking at how the community functions when half its population is not there for most of the week.

"The problem is allowing communities to grow naturally. At the moment we have a restricted market in rural areas therefore some of the houses being snapped up by second home owners are tightening what is already a tightening market."

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