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Last Updated: Monday, 9 June, 2003, 09:24 GMT 10:24 UK
Second homes tax call
Essential workers in Cornwall are being priced out
There are more empty homes in the South West than anywhere else in the UK according to new figures.

The GMB union says there are 60,000 vacant homes in the region and nearly 40 thousand holiday homes.

Top of the league is Cornwall with 6,000 empty homes and nearly 11,000 second homes - 7.2% of homes in the county.

Devon is second with 10,000 empty homes and 11,000 second homes - 6.6% of the county's housing stock.

The report comes as local authorities attempt to ease the problem of housing in the region where vital workers including nurses and teachers are being priced out.

Experts last year said people who want holiday homes in Devon and Cornwall had sent demand - and prices - soaring.

The average price of a home in hot-spots such as South Hams in Devon is 178,000 - nearly 10 times the average local wage.

In north Cornwall alone, there are 4,900 second homes - 8.2 per cent of the total housing stock.

Paul Kenny of the GMB, said: "House prices in many parts of the country have risen beyond the reach of workers earning average or blow average wages.

"Serious consideration needs to be given to levying a tax on empty properties and second homes, to reduce the number of homes that are lying idle.

"There is a tax point at which owners would find a use for these houses rather than leave them empty."

Extra revenue

A study last month by Cornwall Liberal Democrats proposed sweeping reforms to ease the problem.

One measure being proposed would see councils being given the power to forcibly buy up neglected properties so they can be better used to ease the housing crisis.

Richard Yonge, leader of South Hams District Council, has called on the government to allow local authorities to keep the extra revenue from the council tax on second homes.

At the moment the district councils collect the money, but hand over the majority to Devon County Council which has no direct housing remit.

Mr Yonge said if the districts could hang on to the income, it could be ploughed back into more affordable housing.

However, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said it would be more appropriate for the revenue from second homes to be handled by the county council, which can use it to benefit a wider area.

Housing plans opposed
09 Jun 03  |  Devon
Holiday homes send prices soaring
20 Dec 02  |  England
The House Price Trap
06 Aug 02  |  The Money Programme


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