Latest News Second homes debate hots up as Conservative backbenchers call for action on housing crisis From North Yorkshire towns like Whitby to Brighton and the Cornish riviera in the South and from the Isle of Wight to rural Devon, communities, their local councils and local MPs are calling on Government to take action on an acute housing crisis fuelled by wealthy so-called second home owners snapping up homes and taking them out of residential use. Homes large and small, old and newbuild are being purchased at rapidly rising prices. Many are used only occasionally and others serve as handy investments, generating income as well as rising in value, with running costs more than covered by lucrative rental on short-term platforms such as Airbnb. The BBC report massive expansion of the Airbnb and short let sector in recent years, alongside a boom in second home purchases. Something that will not be news to anyone working in rural or coastal housing, or trying to find affordable rented accommodation in such communities. This isn't just pushing up houseprices, it is resulting in higher rents and very limited availability for longer-term lettings. This impacts huge numbers of people. This is often seen as a younger people's issue. Today under 30% of 24 - 34 year olds have a mortgage, down from over 50% in the 1990s. The latest analysis suggest this is now heading towards a mere 20%. But at least 40% of the UK population are destined never to own a home and this means that as well as all those younger people and young families, increasing numbers of middle-aged and older people are now also dependent on local private sector rental markets, as access to social housing dramatically declines. Currently, over 1.2 million households are on social housing waiting lists, yet each year numbers of social homes decline as we build far less than we sell-off through the 'right to buy' council homes and through other so-called disposals and demolitions - including demolitions of urban council estates slated for redevelopment - often as very different housing that fails to deliver extra social homes. This issue is now becoming front-page news across the country and MPs and councillors from all parties are speaking out. Conservative MPs such as Bob Seely in the Isle of Wight and Neil Jupp MP in East Devon have been particularly vocal in recent weeks, but are by no means alone and numerous local radio and TV programmes have covered the issue with AEH often being called upon to comment, including on recent programmes in the South West and Midlands region which focused on the Cotswolds, where the crisis is now so acute that local hospitality businesses are having to seek temporary staff from other parts of the country due to a lack of affordable housing locally for those on average incomes. This is creating hollowed-out communities and ghost towns dominated by occasionally used second homes. Recently released 2021 census data indicated that assumed levels of vacancy in some areas could be double the official estimates, with the Cotswolds demonstrating 12% to the official 5-6% and inner London boroughs Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster showing 25% vacancy - even accounting for the impact of the pandemic this data raises questions about how much housing is now out of primary residential use. Indeed it is arguable that the pandemic exposed what is actually happening to property use in some areas, as the tourist and Airbnb markets were temporarily disrupted by Covid health and travel restrictions. The Big Issue and Transparency International were quick to point out that MPs are more likely to own second homes than the populace at large (then again they are also wealthier than the population at large, on average) and that a large number have significant and lucrative property investments including second homes they rent out. The Government's Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, which includes new proposals for increased taxation on second homes and empty homes, is now progressing through parliament. This replaces earlier proposals for radical Planning Reform, dropped after widespread opposition, a broad coalition of groups known as the Better Planning Coalition are working together to try and ensure that it delivers for people, nature and climate. Sustainably developing homes to meet local needs and not to maximise developer and investor profit from housing that is not in residential use, as second homes and Airbnbs, is part of this. It is one of the reasons that Action on Empty Homes was pleased to be invited to join the Coalition and is actively participating to try and ensure development is for people not profit (as Bob Seely MP, among others, might put it!). That means we need to see a turnaround towards genuine affordability and the prioritisation of building or retrofitting and repurposing the social homes needed to get 100,000 families out of temporary accommodation.