Second homes – a pointless cash cow policy

Date:

Labour Pat Osborne
Labour Pat Osborne

This month Conservative and LibDem Councillors approved proposals for a 100 per cent premium on council tax for second homes.
With around 5,500 households on Dorset Council’s housing register, you’d be forgiven for hoping that this might be intended to alleviate a housing emergency in Dorset caused by a failure of local housing policy from Conservative-run councils for the last 35 years. Not so.
First, the policy is likely to do precious little to encourage second homeowners to free up their properties for those with more pressing housing needs – not least because second homeowners will tend to be wealthy enough to cover the additional costs of the privilege of owning a second home. But with house prices ten to 12 times a typical salary for the area, Dorset people in housing need would simply not be able to afford to buy those properties even if the increased premium were to result in a flurry of second homeowners offloading their country pads.
Second, while Tory councillors also voted for 40 per cent of the revenue raised from the second home premium to be ring-fenced to support the provision of affordable housing in Dorset, in December they reaffirmed their position that they would not be investing in council housing. Dorset Councils owns no council houses and demand for social housing is met exclusively by private housing associations, so it is unclear how exactly this money might be used to support the provision of affordable housing.
As such, Conservative housing policy in Dorset remains confused, insincere and totally inadequate. The 100 per cent premium on council tax for second homes is just the latest example of this. Instead of a solution, it’s a cynical ‘cash cow’ that has precious little to do with meeting housing need in Dorset, and much more to do with filling the growing funding gap for other critical frontline services that have been continually eroded by Tory cuts to local authority funding since 2010.
Pat Osborne
North Dorset Labour Party

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