New data from Government concealed further losses of residential property

Across England local media has been quoting Action on Empty Homes analysis of new Government data. But while national totals appeared to show numbers of so-called 'second homes' falling by around 10,000 in the latest 2021 data, released in November, the reality was that numbers rose as over 11,000 such homes flipped their status to being considered as holiday lets. 

This means that these homes are no longer part of the residential council tax base and are in theory now liable for business rates - however most won't pay these.

This is because by flipping status around 96% such homes can avoid paying local taxation altogether due to generous business rates discounts introduced by Government. This scheme ostensibly designed to protect small local businesses is now being exploited by over 67,000 former homes in England which are now classified as holiday lets.

Adding these 67,000 homes to a current national total of 253,000 second homes means that in all across England the second homes and holiday lets market has sucked over 320,000 homes out of residential supply.

While around 1million homes currently have noone living in them. With over 550,000 long-term empty homes, second homes and holiday lets without residents in the long-term.

Analysis of government figures shows that the country has seen a surge in second homes being flipped to holiday lets, with more than 11,000 second homeowners converting their properties nationally since the start of the pandemic. Many also taking advantage generous Covid business support grants to the consternation of local residents in areas like Norfolk, the Lake District and Cornwall where rocketing house prices make finding affordable accommodation an ever-increasing challenge for local people on average incomes.

Covid grants used claimed in this way are reported to run to £100million in Cornwall alone according to the Daily Mail. While the local housing crisis has intensified.

Here is some of the local coverage on the so-called second home flips controversy:


Number of second homes in Bristol rises as national figure falls

'The number of second homes in Bristol rose last year, despite many owners flipping their properties to holiday lets.'


In Cambridgeshire, the number of holiday homes trading as businesses has jumped by 48%: 'Drop in Cambridgeshire second homes as owners flip properties to holiday lets'


'Second home owners cash in on Devon staycation boom by flipping to holiday lets' while one in every 42 homes in Devon is still classed as a second home:

The story quotes Action on Empty Homes Director Will McMahon: 

'Will McMahon, director of Action on Empty Homes, said: “In the last five years we have seen an escalating housing crisis while the number of long-term empty homes and second homes keeps rising.

“This year’s figures seemed to show second homes numbers dropping at a time when communities around the country were reporting the opposite – now we know why.

“It turns out this isn’t happening at all, they are just switching to business rates in huge numbers to dodge council tax and avoid penalties for being kept empty.

“Today there are nearly 100,000 families and over 120,000 children stuck in overcrowded and insecure temporary accommodation because of a shortage of social housing.

“Yet over half a million homes have no one living in them because they are either long-term empty or are used as holiday lets."

More at:


Is Airbnb causing Devon Housing Shortage?


Drop in second homes in Gloucestershire as owners flip properties to holiday lets


Rise in people buying holiday lets to rent out in northern Lincolnshire

To see data on long-term empty and second homes for every local council in England click here