Restricting second homes and holiday lets will not restore the affordability of houses in local communities

Restricting the numbers of second homes and holiday lets will not restore the availability or the affordability of reasonably priced houses for people living and working in local communities – why?

This is the published opinion of a senior contributor and property surveyor of 30 years working experience and author of the ‘improvethehousingmarket’ web site.

It is published in a bid to start restoring the viability of ‘community’, in all regions of our country and to protect us from excessive second home and holiday property ownership, especially in more attractive localities.

Sadly these ideas may not be on the radar of any political party within Westminster at this particular moment in time. Why, we cannot say!

One thing is certain however, there are problems with any proposals to tax those who wish to own second homes or run holiday letting businesses, not least because doing so will not somehow make such properties suddenly become more affordable to those living and working in the particular communities concerned.

Rather than try to tax (or to fine) those who, for example, use houses as second homes or for holiday letting, or just leave them empty, I propose a fundamental upgrade to the workings of the whole British housing market, because to actually track down and fine the different classes of owners would not just be difficult, it would be impossible to administer in practice.

Some of the main elements of these proposals and their key effects are discussed below. The proposals which I advocate here are urgently in need of being brought in.

House Prices v General Affordability:

The way to resolve the house price crisis, would involve using the unique expertise which I have gained as a professional property valuer with over 30 years working experience in advising clients specifically on house prices.

Without appropriate change, things cannot start to get better for everyone, with regard to house price levels and their broad range-affordability.

“The changes I am advocating here would bring house prices back to within reach of those best suited to the houses currently being sold on the market or becoming available locally.”

Here are the effects of the proposals I am putting forward:

  • Firstly, local buyers would have a better chance to purchase such houses as well as rent one of them if this remained their wish.
  • House prices would more closely reflect earnings in the various areas of Britain and hence remain within reasonable affordability for those ready to offer a service within their community.
  • Finally, with more stable house prices, there would be certainty for builders endeavouring to build the extra properties needed to satisfy increasing local demand. In other words their costs would be able to be estimated more accurately.

Implementing this strategy would however require our government to challenge those entrepreneurs driving house prices higher, (whilst taking profits for themselves in the process).

This would necessarily also have to include fresh discussions with the large scale housing developers, land owners, banks and even some charitable housing associations.

A ministerial team of politicians would have to be assigned to carry this venture forward in order for it to be accomplished swiftly enough to resolve the present crisis.

This proposed alternative solution to the house price crisis involves two aspects:

Instead of allowing the price of houses to depend on sales being arranged by sellers in conjunction with their appointed estate agents (as happens at present), house prices should actually be based on true buyer competition, using offers made for each property, coming with the added knowledge of where each specific buyer currently lives and where they will work.

This way, all ‘local’ offers could be listed alongside all non-local ones and the house seller would then be allowed the opportunity of considering choosing a local buyer over a non-local one.

This is the primary change necessary to bring about fairer house purchases for all houses across the whole of the UK. To achieve this, would simply need the change from seller appointed estate agents to buyer’s agents instead. There’s more on this later but you should know that most people buying something valuable prefer to have an expert representing them and most prefer not to have the selling agent trying to help them when doing this!

Using this procedure, especially where sellers are moving within their own local area, there would be far less need to entertain buyers from richer areas hoping to out-bid those living in poorer ones especially where attractions such as sought-after rural and coastal locations are concerned.

SECONDLY – in addition to the first:
This should involve strengthening the planning system instead of relying on it completely. It should be in addition to the first essential change explained above.

In peacetime (i.e. whilst our country is not at war with another), residential planning consents should be delegated to all local town or parish councils for them to determine, depending upon local housing need.

This way, genuinely democratic decisions may be arrived at using local decision-makers whom are best able to understand what the current needs of the community are at any particular time.

As a retired residential property valuer I remain convinced that if democratically elected local councillors were to be granted full authority to decide local residential planning applications, the effect of this could resolve the whole housing crisis.

Decisions made by such elected representatives would not be based upon NIMBYism ‘Not In My Back Yard’; quite the contrary!

Instead it would be a question of ‘IN My Back Yard’, as these councillors would be representing the wishes and needs of the local community – not simply trying to resist necessary change!

There could be no finer outcome than this, especially where residential property is concerned, because with this solution these councillors could work to actually resolve the housing crisis which we are now all being affected by, particularly owing to its increasing severity.

I am saying towns and their associated hinterlands should zone all existing and future housing within their administration into the following six (or more) specific categories:

Owner occupation: (by those working locally or retired)

Affordable to buy: (for those starting off in life and by those working locally)

Private rental: (by those working locally)

Social housing lettings: (by those working locally or retired)

Second homes: (for those not working locally)

Holiday lettings:

If considered advantageous planning-wise, a mix of different ‘user designations’ could be made specific to  individual houses and different ‘user designations’ may even be allowed in the same street or location, if deemed appropriate.

This would impose new restrictions on residential uses by using planning criteria contained within democratically agreed neighbourhood plans and registers similar to the system currently being proposed in Wales. Such policies could become a blueprint for reducing inflation and to encourage businesses to invest.

This would also help to limit the purchase of scarce housing and so would assist those with local requirements who could then compete with one another to buy the available houses, without being continually beaten to the post by those with more capital coming from outside. It should be stressed adding more planning rules cannot achieve the desired result on its own however.

As just explained, our assertion is that the only way to bring house prices back to levels in line with local buyers’ levels of affordability is to change the present rules for selling such houses by using both of these methods combined – namely both a wholesale upgrade to the workings of the British housing market across the board and the imposition of restrictions on residential uses – using planning criteria as contained within democratically agreed neighbourhood plans and registers.

The author of this post also says: “This new combination would be more inclusive, it would be more local market and it would be able to include local buyers, rather than largely to exclude them, as happens at present.”

If setting up the planning side of these market improvements should prove difficult to do or if it may involve a lengthy time delay, the best thing to do would be to implement stage one and change the marketing policy on its own to begin with. That should have a significant effect on the way the present and imperfect housing market operates and would make a massive difference all on its own.

The full explanation of how exactly to resolve accelerating house prices begins in an earlier article on this web site. To find out all about these fresh new proposals please go to the following link:

The House Price Solution

How to Improve all local housing markets in England and Wales

Posted by: Peter Hendry, Housing Valuation Consultant
Author of:– The House Price Solution.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *