Council pledges action to tackle Cornwall’s ‘perfect storm’ housing crisis

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Council leaders have restated their commitment to helping residents affected by the unprecedented pressure on housing in Cornwall.

Council Leader Linda Taylor said: “It is the top priority for this new administration. Things won’t get better overnight, but we are acting swiftly and doing everything in our power to deal with both the immediate issues and implement the more ambitious long-term plan Cornwall needs to provide decent affordable housing for our residents.”

Action includes

  • Providing hundreds of temporary and emergency accommodation places so local people can be housed without worrying about being asked to leave at a moment’s notice.
  • Buying existing homes to use as social housing
  • Building more Council houses as well as affordable homes for local people to rent or buy
  • Unlocking the potential for town centres to be regenerated to provide more housing
  • Offering loans to bring empty homes back into use
  • Working with the government to maximise council tax income from second homeowners that declare themselves as holiday lets
  • Enabling communities to stop new builds being snapped up by would be second homeowners

Cllr Olly Monk, Cornwall Council portfolio holder for housing and planning says: “The lack of decent affordable housing that residents are experiencing all over Cornwall has been brought to a head in the aftermath of the pandemic. There is an imbalance in supply and demand that we have never seen before.”

“We understand the frustrations of residents who are caught up in this and we’re doing all in our power to tackle it.”

“The Covid pandemic has brought about extraordinary circumstances and pressures. More people continue to need emergency accommodation which has been in increasingly short supply as hotels and B&Bs have been booked up for the summer holiday season.

“In addition, the boom in house prices and the demand for holiday accommodation is causing a significant and sudden reduction in the availability of homes to rent and a matched sudden escalation in rental costs. Private landlords have been moving away from long-term letting and instead moving towards the short-term holiday market, as Covid travel restrictions has increased the demand from visitors looking for a stay cation in places like Cornwall.”

“These factors, together with the shift to working from home which means that people can work from anywhere in the country, is seeing more people move to areas like Cornwall and so has put unprecedented pressure on the amount of open market housing available to buy.”

Steps taken by the Council include:

Emergency accommodation 

 The Council is putting in place temporary and emergency accommodation, to end the use of hotels, to house people in urgent need so local people can be housed without worrying about being asked to leave at a moment’s notice.  

For example  

  • more cabin style accommodation. These are single-berth with cooking and shower facilities. A first batch of 21 more units are being set-up this month at County Hall in Truro with more arriving in Camborne this week.  
  • 10 one-bedroom modular homes, to be used as ‘move on’ accommodation to support people on their journey towards settled, permanent, homes will get underway by the end of August.  
  •  buying and refurbishing more than 100 homes, primarily for families, to provide medium-term temporary accommodation.  

 More homes 

  • Council-led housing programmes are on course to provide 400 homes a year but there are ambitions to drive this number to a much higher level.  
  • Council housing is a top priority and provision is being scaled up. For example, 16 new Council homes for social rent have just been completed on two sites in Veryan – all for local households
  • We’re buying hundreds of new and existing homes. 
  • We’re investing £200m in a Housing Development Programme with Treveth to deliver a mix of homes for private rent, open market sale, affordable rent and shared ownership.   
  • All the affordable homes built as part of our council housing and Housing Development Programme will be allocated to households that have a local connection to Cornwall - we don’t build homes for other local authorities to house their residents.  
  • Through the planning process, we will continue to facilitate the delivery of affordable homes throughout Cornwall.

Reviewing holiday lets and second homes  

  • The Council will work with Cornwall’s MPs to push for a change in legislation, which is already being put forward by the government, to address issues such as council tax payment and business rates exemptions.  
  • At the moment second homeowners can claim to be a holiday let business and register for business rates rather than pay council tax. We’ll be supporting moves for this loophole to be addressed. 
  • The Council also wants holiday lets to be licensed so that we have an accurate picture of that sector, and for a change of use from residential to a holiday let to require planning permission. 
  • We also want the option for the Council to be able to charge more Council tax on second homes. At the moment, second homeowners pay 100% council tax on their property. 

 Neighbourhood Development Plans 

  • The Council has supported communities who have chosen to put in place restrictions – known as a Principal Residence Policy – that mean that any new build homes in their area can’t be sold as second homes and must be used as the sole private residence of the occupier.  
  • Communities in coastal areas and second home hotspots such as St Ives, Fowey and St Agnes have adopted this policy.

Unlocking town centre space for the creation of new homes  

  • Following changes to planning rules, we’ll be working with our towns and property owners to develop and unlock unused space above commercial areas and turn them into homes.  

Tackling empty homes 

  • There are around 2,500 properties in Cornwall classified as being empty and unused for longer than 6 months.  This is about 1.1% of the total number of homes in Cornwall.  
  • We have loan funding available - up to £60,000 for a single home and up to £210,000 where there are a number of potential homes involved – to help bring them back into use.  
  • The Council’s Empty Property Loan scheme has already lent over £2 million to property owners, resulting in over 120 properties being brought back into use.  

Story posted August 20 2021

 

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