Call for second home owners to pay double council tax

An East Devon councillor is calling on the Government to double council tax on second homes - to curb the numbers of properties left empty.

It follows an appeal by Exmouth’s portfolio holder for communities, Jill Elson, who called on residents for their help to fill abandoned homes which have become an ‘eyesore’.

Of the 3,096 houses in East Devon left empty for six months, 2,338 are second homes - and 500 are just abandoned by their owners.

Independent councillor Claire Wright, who won the seat of former district council leader Sara Randall Johnson in May while standing on an anti-development platform, said 3,000 households - families requiring a home - were on East Devon District Council’s housing waiting list.

“If the Government is really serious about providing homes for people, it should address the growing problem of second home ownership.

“Leaving houses empty for months on end is damaging to local economies, community life and deprives local people of a place to live… taxpayers are subsidising homeowners who keep their properties empty for most of the year.”

Cllr Wright, who said the Government had talked about building more homes but stayed silent on the problem of empty houses, intended to lobby MP Hugo Swire this week.

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“What is the point of simply covering the countryside in houses when a considerable proportion of them here continue to be bought up and left empty for much of the year?”

Currently, councils can charge a maximum of 90 per cent of council tax on a second home.

Cllr Wright criticised the district council’s policy of bringing back derelict homes into use because she said tracking down homeowners and persuading them to invest in them would be ‘long’ and difficult.

But doubling council tax, she said, could bring �400,000 into the district council’s coffers. “It might also deter more people from snapping up houses in the countryside, which get lived in just a few weeks of the year.”