The inconvenient truth of second-home misery
- Credit: Archant
If we don't stop the flood of second homes in Norfolk, then community cohesion will suffer, warns Keith Skipper.
There are certain topics demanding urgent attention in Norfolk seemingly destined for regular airings, a few well-meaning comments and then another period of solitary confinement in a bottom drawer.
Take the vexed matter of second homes, clearly a significant factor in pushing up house prices way out of reach for local people. Latest figures must warrant something more than the old 'market forces' refrain.
The annual East of England Home Truths housing report shows there are now more than 13,000 second homes in Norfolk with 5,359 of them in the north of our county. Two-fifths of the total number of second homes in the entire East of England are in Norfolk.
I've heard several local councillors and business leaders hint broadly at a 'campaign of envy' waged by those who complain loudest about well-off folk moving in and doubling their residential portfolios while disgruntled natives struggle to stay near their roots.
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Perhaps the fact many of these second homes are not used for several months of the year moves the argument to a higher level at a time when 'housing crisis' features in so many headlines.
Sarah Finnegan of the National Housing Federation brings timely home truths to a debate all too often bogged down in economic terms alone: 'If families and young people are priced out of their villages, it can have a hugely damaging impact on community life.
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'Village shops, schools and pubs are closing at alarming numbers. Unless we take action, the countryside will increasingly become a place for the well-off to enjoy at weekends.' Surely that is the real issue at the heart of it all: social cohesion.
If remaining locals in fashionable parts of Norfolk are forced out by money-driven colonisation, is it any wonder they complain? That's not petty envy. More like understandable anger at being denied a chance to follow parents and grandparents in relishing Norfolk's natural glories.