9:00 PM July 4, 2022
Reader Gill Wilton who lives in North Norfolk explains the problem many people have with second home owners
There are three big myths about second homes.
First, that these “second homes” are “homes”. They are not.
Second, that they make a significant contribution to the tourist or local economy. They don’t. They take more than they bring.
And third, they cannot be regulated without further damaging the economy or driving up property prices even further.
Few secondary “homes” are houses, but there are a large number of residential investment properties.
The discussion of these houses should be clear. A house that is used to earn money without permanent, or even without tenants, is not a “house”. It is mainly these properties that distort the market and cause problems.
These are the ones that are sold at high prices, driving up the price and preventing local people with lower incomes from buying their own homes. They are usually purchased by people who have little emotional or social commitment to a community, who have little or no interest in what happens to that community outside of their own economic needs.
These properties and their owners make little contribution to the community or the economy.
This contribution would be greater if the properties were permanently occupied. Despite claims that limiting the number of holiday homes will harm the tourist economy, there is little evidence on this, but it is clear that they are not central to the holiday economy. Even figures used by North Norfolk District Council show that ‘second homes’ account for only 4% of the tourism sector economy (Economic Impact of Tourism North Norfolk – 2020).
A sector, by the way, which provides only 20% of total employment. this therefore represents less than one percent of the total workforce employed in the provision of vacations in secondary “residences”. The holiday economy is based on caravans and campsites, chalets, hotels, B&Bs and B&Bs. It is the heart of the tourist economy.
Our village in North Norfolk has 20% of its homes registered as ‘second homes’. Most of this 20 percent are not houses at all but investments that are sometimes rented out for ten weeks a year. We have a total of approximately 130 residents registered to vote and approximately 70 properties in total.
So we have 14 properties that not only don’t contribute to the village, but prevent 14 other families from contributing. Four permanently occupied properties have been sold in the past 12 months and at least two (if not all four) are believed to have been sold as holiday homes.
It is claimed that the occupiers spend money when they are here. Do they? If you have a full house, aren’t you self-sufficient? Don’t you stay as it’s cheaper to cook at the base and anyway kids have access to tv and wifi?
Home weekends near me follow a similar pattern. Around 6 p.m. on a summer Friday evening, a car or three arrive. Around 6:30 p.m., a delivery from a supermarket chain arrives.
The week then takes on a familiar pattern. Outing from morning until mid-afternoon. Playing in the garden until tea/dinner. Then the kids to bed while the adults have fun.
Food shopping is done in one of the big supermarket chains. Sure, they can buy an ice cream for the kids and a coffee for themselves when they’re out, but that’s probably what a permanent resident would do anyway. The economic gain of using this property as a vacation home rather than a residence is nil. But the damage it causes is more than economic.
Of course, North Norfolk needs the tourist economy. But the enormous damage caused by these investment properties outweighs the small contribution they make to the economy.
The greatest contribution to the tourist economy is made by hotels, guesthouses, caravans, campsites and bed and breakfasts. It is the pubs and restaurants that take care of those who stay there. These employ people with a regular salary. They add to a community and have a place in that community.
Local politicians should examine the evidence. Can they prove that these “second homes” contribute more than they take. Can they say that villages and towns are better off when much of their housing is closed and dead in winter while they are in a hurry to build more elsewhere.
The time for “thinking things through” is long gone. The balance must be restored and in favor of permanent residents.
A major step could be taken quickly, as Duncan Baker, MP for North Norfolk, said. Houses used as commercial properties must be registered as such and must apply for a change of use plan. We would then have a clear picture of their numbers as well as evidence of their harmful influence. They could be taxed and managed appropriately for the communities in which they are found.
Of course, this would require legislation at the national level, but there is a catch. How many of our lawmakers and senior officials who craft such a bill have a vacation home themselves?