A number of councils in Cornwall, including mine in Falmouth, have declared Housing Emergencies. There is a massive problem here. It was recently reported that there were 69 properties to let compared with 10,000 AirBnbs in Cornwall. It’s been caused by a perfect storm of second home ownership fuelled by the Covid stamp duty cut, people relocating to Cornwall now they can work from home and Airbnb/holiday or student letting being more lucrative for landlords than renting to local people. That has meant people selling up at vastly inflated prices and housing becoming even more unaffordable on local wages.
Shockingly, £170 million of Covid business grants went to second home/holiday let owners in Cornwall and £100 million of that left Cornwall altogether! People who register their second homes as a business if they are available to holiday let for a minimum period slip through a loophole where they pay no council tax or business rates.
We also suffer from a huge deficit in emergency housing. When people become homeless when they’re evicted from their private rented accommodation so the owner can Airbnb it, or sell it at the top of the market, where do they go? Before the summer many of them were housed in hotels at great expense. At the G7 our homeless were moved out of the hotels to make way for more lucrative clients and then for holidaymakers.
The new Conservative Council, in desperation, are buying holiday parks and putting mobile units in council carparks. So, we all know there’s a problem. We see it around us. Nurses and teachers get jobs in Cornwall but have to turn them down as they can’t afford anywhere to live. Hospitality and care workers can’t afford to live within commuting distance of where they work.
No wonder then that 5 of the 6 Cornish Constituency Labour Parties proposed policy on housing to the Labour Party Conference. The new policy agreed would:
give first time buyers first dibs on new homes; link what is classed as ‘affordable housing’ to incomes, rather than the inflated housing market;
give councils the power and finance to buy land and build large numbers of council houses;
end right to buy;
scrap the tax loophole on second homes;
and allow councils to tax second homes and holiday lets and limit their numbers with new planning rules and regulation.
We need solutions quickly in Cornwall in all areas of housing provision and we need the devolved powers to make change as they have already in Scotland and Wales. Emergency housing, social housing, our broken private rented sector and the hugely inflated cost of buying a house. It truly has become an emergency.