Labour MP: We'll tax second homes to solve city's homelessness crisis
PUBLISHED: 17:33 24 September 2018 | UPDATED: 17:33 24 September 2018
Labour has declared war on the East's holiday homeowners in a bid to raise hundreds of millions to fight the region's homelessness crisis.
Shadow housing secretary John Healey told this newspaper he will introduce a levy on people who own second homes in our region’s villages and coastal towns.
Nationally the levy would raise £560 million annually and the party would use money to fund programmes tackling homelessness in our towns and cities.
He said the anecdotal evidence of a rise in the number of homeless people in Norwich, Ipswich and Colchester was real and the levy would mean those who could afford housing were helping those who could not.
He added that the charge – which would be double the amount annually that homeowners currently pay in council tax and would not include buy-to-let properties – would also “take the heat” out of the housing market in rural areas where local people feel they are being pushed out of the towns and villages they grew up in.
He said: “We would bring in a national levy on second homes used as holiday homes. This will not be a council tax but a levy.
“It will be at a level of double the current council tax. We will earmark this money to help kids and families without a home.
“To our shame there is a growing number of homeless people and homeless families living in hostel environments. There are 125,000 kids that tonight have no home to go back to.
“It will raise £560m annually to tackle this growing scandal. I would expect every area to get some return from the levy.
“If somebody is wealthy enough to own a second home and use it for weekends or occasional holidays then they can pay a bit more to help ease the housing crisis and help those who have no home at all.
“And in some areas this will help take the heat out of the housing market. It won’t, on its own, solve all the problems but it may help - alongside our other plans - to allow local young people to remain in the areas they have grown up in.
“It just may make people pause for thought and take some of that heat out. Most importantly it will be based on the principle that those who have done well can help others.”
The most recent figures on second homes show that in North Norfolk there are 5,359 and in Suffolk Coastal 2,765. There are thousands more across the whole of East Anglia.
He also accused the government of backing garden town developments in East Anglia that were not appropriate and would do little to help local communities.
“New towns are a part of a long-term plan, just as they were after the Second World War,” he added. “The difficulty with the one near Dereham, for example, and in other areas in the East is we have government calling big developments garden towns or garden villages... it is just a cover for big developments on the planning rules which means the homes that are built that won’t be mixed, they are less likely to be affordable to people who already live there - especially if they are on low or average wages.
“Where we build – and we do need to build – what we build and who it is for is just as important as how many we build.”
He also announced plans for new renters’ unions in order to “help people who feel helpless in the face of the housing crisis, who need back up in standing up to their landlord – it will allow them to have the information and advice they need”.
“We have earmarked £20m for the set up costs over three years and then the membership subscriptions would pay for it,” he said. “These unions are well established in places like Germany where there are more than a million members.”
Pressed on whether the renters’ unions would simply up the costs for people who cannot afford to buy homes he said: “This is an announcement and we will work the detail up in a wide consultation. Government does not set trade union fees – it will find its own level.”