Council leader concerned about housing crisis

The leader of North Devon Council says properties being purchased for second homes and holiday lets – including here in Ilfracombe – is a worrying trend that makes it extremely difficult for local people to get on the housing ladder.

Council leader David Worden said house prices have risen by up to 18% in some parts of North Devon over the past 12 months. Mr Worden said the matter called for collective action.

He said: “The impacts are not just on the individuals but also on our economy and social structure, as businesses and public services are now finding it hard to attract new employees as a direct result of the shortage of permanent accommodation. Our council has been very active in its efforts to keep people housed. Over the course of the pandemic, our housing staff have worked tirelessly with their colleagues and with our partners.”

Mr Worden said between April 2020 and March 2021, the council helped stop 500 households becoming homeless and purchased a number of properties for use as emergency temporary accommodation. He said: “Despite the pandemic, 117 new affordable homes were delivered and as of 31 May 2021, we have approved 636 further affordable dwellings. We are keen for residents to come forward when they are aware of derelict or empty properties that could be brought back into use and, in certain circumstances, offer loans to owners of those properties in an effort to encourage them to move them back into use. We want to use our existing housing as efficiently as possible. It is clear though, that the answer for the current problems goes beyond the powers of local authorities and goes beyond simply building more homes. It needs a joined up approach from local and national government to resolve these issues. In the meantime, we, along with other district councils in Devon, will be pushing our local MPs to continue to take up the issue with government and to press for steps to be taken to redress the balance. This includes measures such as tightening up the criteria to enable properties to be valued for business rates, removing mortgage interest and Capital Gains tax relief from holiday rental properties and allowing councils to set higher council tax on second homes. We will also ask the Government to consider incentive schemes to encourage landlords to let on the permanent rental market rather than the holiday market. This is an issue that will affect the character of North Devon if action is not taken now.”

Local News – The Ilfracombe Magazine