Housing crisis in Cornwall: Tax planning and reforms ‘urgently needed’

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Cornwall Council’s Section 151 Officer has called on the government to implement reforms to planning and tax rules to help local authorities respond urgently to the housing crisis.

Tracie Langley, who is also Cornwall’s COO, told Room151 the county faces a number of housing issues, including: a seasonal workforce which is increasing demand; private sector rental owners “turning” their properties into vacation rentals; and old abandoned tin mining areas that are difficult to regenerate without government investment.

“Our response to these problems is to try to increase the supply of housing and we have just adopted a new housing strategy aimed at doing just that, but we urgently need government help. Basically, we need to deter people who own properties they don’t live in from turning rented accommodation into vacation rentals,” she said.

“Cornwall has 11,000 properties turned into vacation rentals where owners have opted for business rates to qualify for Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR). This costs the taxpayer £17.5million a year and makes these properties unavailable for rental by locals and seasonal workers.

Langley will discuss this issue at the Housing151 conference in London next month. She asked that councils have:

  • Legislative powers to deter landlords from switching from council tax to business rates to access relief by eliminating SBRR and increasing business rates on vacation rentals.
  • Legislative powers to significantly increase council tax rates for second homes and vacation rentals so that there are financial benefits to keeping properties in the private rental market.
  • The possibility of applying a new category of planning which requires consent for a move from residential accommodation to a secondary residence, with the stamp duty generated by sales on the old reinvested in affordable housing.

“Indigenous Cornish workers have been left out of our beautiful coastal landscapes as people outside the county pay extraordinary prices for houses. This narrows housing options for locals to former industrial centers – some of the poorest areas in Europe – where there is a concentration of affordable housing.

Changes were needed, she said, to help fund remediation – where land on former tin mining areas is cleared for development. This is vital in areas of Cornwall such as Camborne and Redruth, but individual projects are often too small to qualify for Homes England grants.

“We need to be able to bundle smaller brownfields, especially those in the industrial heartland, to meet the thresholds for government remediation grants or the criteria need to be changed to allow wider access to grants,” said Langley.

the Accommodation151 conference will take place in London on May 25, 2022.


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