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Friday, 7 September, 2001, 09:08 GMT 10:08 UK
Should people buy second homes?
Exmoor national park is considering a radical idea to stop local people being forced out of the area by rising property prices.

Wages in the area are well below the national average, while Exmoor house prices have risen by a third in the past three years.

If the national park's housing policy is approved, from the end of next year, buyers of all newly built homes will need to fulfil strict criteria, including residency in the area for 10 years.

The council's plan, due to go out to consultation next month, also suggests anyone wanting to occupy a property for less than six months of the year, will need to seek planning permission. If the number of second homes is already higher than 10%, applications will be refused.

Should people from outside a particular region be allowed to buy homes in that area? Or should local people have priority?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Top marks to the Exmoor National Park. I look forward to a similar scheme being introduced here in Cornwall. Then maybe we could stop the flood of our youngsters out of the place because they are unable to find an affordable home. It might also prevent the tidal wave of outsiders who once here, complain about every development because it might interfere with their desire to have a quiet life.
Nigel Tregoning, Falmouth, Cornwall, UK.

These are people who are working hard, making sacrifices and deserve the fruits of their labour

Andy, UK
There seems to be a common theme running through some of these contributors who seem to think that the people in a position to buy a second home are the idle rich with nothing better to do with their money to which the cry goes out "It's not fair - lets tax them!" Come on - these are people who are working hard, making sacrifices and deserve the fruits of their labour. Furthermore if a tax is imposed these individuals will simply spend their money on second homes abroad - that can't be good for the economy. If you really want to see local homes going to local people form a housing association, put your money on the table and buy the places yourselves!
Andy, UK

If people have enough cash to buy a second home, then they obviously have more money than sense and should be taxed to the utmost extreme. Imagine how all of those country locals feel having a surplus of empty houses around them for most of the year - this only makes their area more susceptible to burglaries.
Leon, U.K

Greedy well-off people taking away the homes of the poor? Oh of course, I forgot, it's not acceptable to be well-off in Blair's Britain is it. You're only allowed to be "averagely" well off. Well, look at it this way - for every "greedy well-off" person who is buying a second home, there is a "local" person selling the property and getting a nice fat sum for it. If the "local" people don't want "greedy well-off" people moving in, don't sell!
Simon Moore, UK

How on earth can people complain about spiralling house prices and the number of new houses in the same breath? Don't you realise that it is the lack of new development that drives up prices. If you resist development then you will still have England's green and pleasant land but you will only see it as you drive to your terraced house in Accrington. It may also interest you that there is a concept called capital gains tax which already taxes heavily any profits made from the sale of a second home. Wise up little England!
Roger, Scotland

This scheme would ultimately work against the locals, as their market would be extremely limited when they come to sell.
Neil, UK

Placing any kind of limit on how many second home owners can be in an area, will only increase house prices in desirable areas. Surely this will only exacerbate the problem for locals unable to find affordable homes?
Susan, UK

Richard, UK : My wage is not three time what I could earn in Exmoor - I very much struggle to afford to have a roof over my head - but it is a very good investment, already gained 10% in just a year - I think it's just that England is split into London and surrounding areas and the rest. It is an imbalance, but taxing heavily will only push up prices even more, as they will truly become the domain of the rich.
Bill R, UK

Perhaps Allen, England should be living on another planet if he thinks that unbridled market forces can solve the problem of scarcity. The whole point of rationing is not primarily to constrict the rich but to ensure that everyone has enough!

How depressing, yet how predictable, to read that socialists can only ever come with up the same solution to every problem: expropriation and coercion.
Henry Case, UK

It's quite simple - if Exmoor (or wherever) residents don't want houses to be sold to holiday-homers at inflated prices - don't greedily sell them to them!

The problem with second homeowners is that they don't support the local community and push up house prices. Why not have a second home tax that can be used to build more houses?
Caron, England

Can I counteract the hysteria on this page which suggests that all persons owning a second property are somehow greedy multi millionaires? I have a rented second property and I realise that I am in an extremely lucky position to be able to do so. However, I am by no means 'rich' or greedy. Mine was an investment decision made because a standard pension is not appropriate for my circumstances. As it is the rental value just about covers the mortgage. The cold hard fact of living in a capitalist country is that it is the market (not the government) which determines prices.

We have precious little enough green space as it is

Mark, Devon, UK
I live in South Devon, one of the areas of the country most affected by second homes. We have precious little enough green space as it is and John Prescott decreed that the South Hams should build over 11,000 new homes in our small area, most of which will be on green field sites. No consultation, no local democracy, just imposed from Westminster. Without restrictions on how many of homes in Devon are sold as second homes, the pressure will go on and on until we are buried under a mass on concrete and brick. There are already well over the number of houses needed for housing needs sitting empty for most of year.
Mark from Devon, UK

I agree with Barry from Wales. Put an extra tax on a second home as it is an unnecessary luxury that only the well-off can afford. However be careful not to tax To Let properties as the cost will be pushed on to those who rent.
Darren, UK

A national house price control system sounds the best idea of all

John Atkins, UK
A national house price control system sounds the best idea of all. How it would be implemented fairly is another matter. A second home is fine, but the taxation of such ownership must be made high, with the proceeds feeding in to support the local residents.
John Atkins, UK

Whoever said "housing stock is a national resource" must live on another planet. Much of this "national resource" is being paid for out of the hard-earned and heavily taxed wages of ordinary people. Of course the lefty consensus is to ban everything that smacks of capitalism, especially second homes - a really "privileged few" benefit. Or is it? I know a van driver who has a small flat by the sea, where he enjoys the fishing.

Jez's answer comes close to the only sensible non-interventionist solution - build homes for reasonable rents, ring-fenced for local residents (not those who commute two hours each way to work), to allow young people to start a life in their own homes.
Allen, England

Of course MPs don't want to do this

Richard, UK
Bill R misses the point. The Exmoor residents will never have the option of moving to London (not even to increase their prospects). And now the young ones can't even afford places in the same towns as their parents. I say we should heavily tax both profit on property and second-home value to try to cap this crippling "haves" and "have-nots" market. Of course MPs don't want to do this - they've all got their London properties firmly rooted in their lists of financial assets and investments.
Richard, UK

With an expanding population, marriage breakdown creating two households where there was one and banks/building societies lending ever-increasing multiples of income, the problem is not going to go away. If you give local people priority on Exmoor, why not in the South East where the influx of people from other parts of the UK and overseas has pushed prices up to heights far higher than on Exmoor? The only people who can afford to live in London are the very rich and the very poor (via housing benefits). If the population of Exmoor think they are badly done by, what would they think of paying 200,000 for a flat?
Brian W, UK

Once again the ruling elite are hell-bent on dictating and controlling the freedom of individuals to exercise their legal rights. This reflects the mindless, witless and petty bureaucracy endemic in this country, which is hell-bent on controlling every aspect of our lives. The underlying purpose of this "sledge hammer to crack a nut syndrome" is laudable. However market forces will prevail and no amount of legislation will reduce the cost of housing to an affordable level for first time buyers.
Snape R, UK

Britain is a free country and people should be able to buy as many homes as they like

Gavin Pearson, USA
Britain is a free country and people should be able to buy as many homes as they like. I can't see the sellers complaining about getting massively inflated market rates for their homes. As for the differential in prices between the South and North, if Barnsley, Bradford and Blackburn had anything attractive to offer, people would be flocking there in their droves. However they don't, and thus you have to sell at a low rate.
Gavin Pearson, USA

I come from a small town in Wiltshire which has become a very desirable area to live. We even have famous residents such as John Thaw and Sheila Hancock! The major problem is that everyone under about 35, who are locals, cannot afford to live there anymore. I do think that it is right that people from elsewhere should be discouraged from buying property in areas such as these, to try and help the locals get into a property market, where all their friends and family live. And just in case you think I am saying this so I can get a cheap house there - I live in London and probably will not move back!
Sue, UK

If you can afford it - why not? If people in a certain area don't want outsiders to buy a house - don't sell. We had the same problem in Seattle with Californians driving up the price of houses here but the funny thing was that no-one ever turned down the money when it was offered. The seller always has the option to pick which bid they like, it doesn't have to be the highest.
Andrew Stack, USA

Housing stock is a national resource

Richard, England: our state is responsible for managing the economy and housing development so that we can have a roof over our heads. When lots of people are homeless we blame those in charge of the state both at national and local level, and we expect the state to help homeless people at any time. Housing stock is a national resource and if it becomes necessary to prevent greedy people from taking too much in order to make sure that the less well off get something then so be it.

Re Andy Millward. Buying to let is not a community service. It's a denial of others' opportunities to get on the housing ladder. The drawing on a finite resource by the economically advantaged who then charge others to occupy (and pay your mortgage and council tax) thereby minimising their own risk cannot really be viewed as an altruistic endeavour.
Spencer, UK

Hang on - who is making money from selling their houses? It wouldn't be 'locals' who now realise they are living in a gold mine, would it?
Chris, UK

The answer may be a sort of compromise whereby new low-cost housing is developed in certain areas and ring-fenced for local people.
Jez, UK

Perhaps a new law that limits the price of a house to 10% above the cost of building the house from scratch. This would be the cost of materials plus a standard countrywide rate for labour. This would see house prices reduced to a sensible level.
Ian Thomas, England

Any laws targeted to restrict who can buy also restrict who they can sell to

David, UK
If the locals really have a problem with outsiders, why are they selling out to them? Any laws targeted to restrict who can buy also restrict who they can sell to. I can only imagine the whines of Exmoor locals when their homes devalue as a result of purchase restrictions.
David, UK

Well, if we are going to start interfering in the free market for properties, I think London would be a good place to start. Then maybe normal people could afford to live here again. However, I'm surprised that Tony 'Natural Heir to Thatcher' Blair hasn't already jumped in to stop this flagrant messing about with his beloved capitalist system.
Adam Jacobs, London, UK

I wouldn't mind a second home....if I could only afford to buy the first one that is!
James, England

I have just bought a house in the Thames Valley, which has London prices. For the price I'm paying I can buy THREE houses "up north"! Get a grip! - the South (East) is rich, the rest of the country ain't! Who cares what the prices are in Exmoor? Try living where there is a house price problem!!!
Bill R, UK

Anyone buying to let, who subsequently allows their second property to be rented by someone who otherwise would not be housed, is doing the community a service - providing they are not earning an excess profit from doing so. As I understand it, buy to let often breaks even but rarely if ever makes big profits.
Andy Millward, UK

Come and see what your money buys in North London

Bill, UK
To prevent someone making a legal purchase sounds a rather odd way of going about the business of local government. However, perhaps if the cost of housing in the South East were at a more realistic level, people would not be able to rent their London homes out and finance the purchase of such remote properties from the vastly inflated rents we have to suffer here. Might I also point out to those who seem to think London is the land of the multi-propertied, a substantial proportion of us can't afford to get on the housing ladder despite earning 40,000 a year!! If you think the situation is bad in Exmoor and Wales, come and see what your money buys in North London.
Bill, UK

Can't we simply double the council tax on second homes? This would push the price of the house down a little and give much needed extra resources to the local community.
Barry, Wales

Well, if we are going to start interfering in the free market for properties, I think London would be a good place to start. Then maybe normal people could afford to live here again. However, I'm surprised that Tony 'Natural Heir to Thatcher' Blair hasn't already jumped in to stop this flagrant messing about with his beloved capitalist system.
Adam Jacobs, London, UK

Working in the cities has enable for some, the luxury of having a second home. The demand for property in the countryside has increased as people like the idea of 'getting back to nature' and also cities are not what they once were. The shame is that the average city dweller's idea of getting back to nature is a 4x4 and a picket fence. These people have no idea of the countryside or what living there entails. To protect the countryside and the way of life of the people that live there definitely limit the availability of property on a second home basis.
Julian, England

It's bound to happen - I could buy a second home in North Wales for less money than it would cost me to trade up by one bedroom locally. The cost of housing is so skewed by preposterous prices in the South-East that nothing is surprising.
Guy Chapman, UK

We should always have an eye on problems like Exmoor and other places of such natural beauty

Martin, UK
Whilst I have no problem with people being able to buy as many houses as they can afford (we do after all live in a capitalist democracy), we should always have an eye on problems like Exmoor and other places of such natural beauty, or popular tourist towns. What right does the richer south, for which you can probably read LONDON (which has all the money but none of the scenery) have to buy up all the "quaint little places in the country" in the North (which has all the scenery but not so much money), in order to spend one weekend in 20 up there or to rent it out to other tourists in order to make yet more money?
Martin, UK

The root of the problem is that London exists in a different economic world, as compared to the rest of England. The country urgently needs other primary cities, so that wages will rise which will benefit the surrounding areas. Until this happens (if it ever does) this idea sounds perfectly reasonable.
Rustam Roy, England

Exmoor's solution seems a tad unfair to people wanting to buy their main property in the area. But I doubt they can do much else to combat the purchasing of second homes which helps to push up prices beyond ordinary people's affordability. Financial penalties should be implemented for second homes on a national level, at least until the affordability problem improves.
Richard N, UK

SECOND?!!! I take it you don't live in the South East!!!!!
Lee, England

How many houses a person owns is their responsibility not the state's

Richard, England
How many houses a person owns is their responsibility not the state's. I used to live by the New Forest and the foresters were always complaining about people moving into the area or buying second homes. Yet they were quite happy to sell these properties at inflated prices. It seems that they want the tourists but perish the thought that grockles actually want to buy any land.
Richard, England

Fair play. I commend the stance being taken but more needs to be done. Buy-to-let investors get away with far worse. Any plans to make them pay council tax (or any other) on their properties or will the Government continue to allow the rich to monopolise the housing market? I suspect that with a number of MPs owning more than one house the answer will be the latter.
Spencer, UK

And how, exactly, do you think you can stop people buying a property they want and can afford? It is market forces that dictate the value of any asset. I would also think that this would be seen as discrimination and consequently have very dubious legal basis.
Barry, England

There is a similar problem in North Wales. The answer is easy, tax second homeowners and use the money to help locals buy their first homes!
Neil, Wales

See also:

01 Oct 99 | UK Politics
Blair denies second home ban
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