Councillor wants 2nd home tax hike to help families

An East Devon councillor is calling on the Government to double council tax on second homes to cut numbers of properties left empty.

Independent Claire Wright, who won the Ottery Rural seat off former district council leader Sara Randall Johnson in May on an anti-development platform, said 3,000 households were on East Devon District Council’s housing waiting list.

And of the 3,096 houses in East Devon left empty for six months, almost 2,500 are second homes, with just 500 are just abandoned by their owners.

She said if the Government was serious about providing for families requiring a home it needs to address the growing problem of second home ownership.

Cllr Wright added: “Leaving houses empty for months on end is damaging to local economies, community life and deprives local people of a place to live.

“Taxpayers are subsidising homeowners who keep their properties empty for most of the year.”

She said the Government had talked about building more homes but had stayed silent on the problem of empty houses, and she intends to lobby East Devon MP Hugo Swire this week.

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Currently, councils can charge only a maximum of 90 per cent of council tax on a second home, something Cllr Wright would like to see changed.

Doubling council tax could bring �400,000 into the district council’s coffers she argues, and might deter people from ‘snapping up houses in the countryside, which get lived in just a few weeks of the year’.

She also criticised district council policy of bringing back derelict homes into use because she said tracking down homeowners and persuading them to invest in them would be protracted.