Council Declares a Housing Crisis
South Hams District Council says it has no choice but to declare a Housing Crisis.
Due to a number of factors, including the lack of rented accommodation which is available for longer than six months, an excessive rise in house prices due to second home-owners, the conversion of properties to Airbnb's and people moving into the District since the pandemic: South Hams District Council says it has no choice but to declare a Housing Crisis.
The District does have a five-year supply of land for housing, an adopted Joint Local Plan with Plymouth and West Devon, and an adopted Housing Strategy that they consulted on last year, but local leaders say that due to recent events, there is just not enough properties for local people and those people wanting to work in the District.
Cllr Judy Pearce Leader of South Hams District Council Said: "We are all very aware of the problems that have been created this summer, because so many properties have been turned into Airbnb's. We have every sympathy with people wanting to come and visit the South Hams, but we have to look at the sustainable future of our district and if people can't afford to live here for work, then the system is going to break down. We can't have innumerable tourists here if there is nobody here to service the businesses that they are using.
"We do have the Joint Local Plan, it is working well, but it has been drawn up on government guidelines, and whilst we are building the right number of houses, we are not building the right kind of homes that are needed in the South Hams. It is becoming more and more evident that the housing policy which is promoted nationally is not working in areas likes ours.
"That is why, with Cllr Bastone, I brought a motion to the Council. It has a number of actions in it, which are complemented by and are in addition to our plan "Better Lives for All" and our housing strategy. This is a list of actions and I am suggesting that we do not do a lot of talking, but we get on and take action."
At a meeting of their full Council, Cllr Judy Pearce, Leader of South Hams District Council and Deputy Leader Cllr Hilary Bastone, laid out ten actions that they asked the Council to take urgently in order to address the crisis; two further actions were added during the meeting. They are:
- The District Council will lobby government, through MPs and the Local Government Association, to allow a Council Tax charge on housing plots with planning permission if they have not been built after a specified period. This would encourage developers to get on and build their sites without delay.
- They will also lobby Government to review all holiday accommodation. This would ensure that it is properly regulated, complying with local planning policies and taxes. This could include an extension of the 90-day short let legislation, a proper planning class for short lets and proper licencing for them. This would prevent people finding loopholes in the taxation system and prevent too many local homes being converted to holiday accommodation.
- The Council should also immediately review all holiday letting in the District to ensure that the owners are paying the correct amount for the removal of waste and recycling. Businesses should not be on the normal domestic recycling and waste collection.
- South Hams District Council will also ask the Joint Local Plan project team to review the amounts of affordable housing in the Joint Local Plan and see if this can be increased, so that the percentage of "First Homes" on a development is in addition to the existing requirement for 30% affordable housing.
- The District Council already runs a letting agency to encourage landlords to make properties available for local families in need. There should be further promotion of this and regular landlord forums to encourage more properties to become available.
- The District Council works closely with registered providers on many housing projects across the District; they will now be working with them to ensure the best use of those properties, such as to encourage tenants to downsize where possible and make larger properties available for larger households.
- In addition to this, the District Council is proposing to use some of the affordable housing revenue to increase payments made to those tenants downsizing to make the move more attractable and affordable.
- The Council is committed to using Section 106 affordable housing contributions as soon as possible, to help fund developments anywhere in the District where the terms of the Section 106 agreements will allow.
- The Council also wants to campaign for changes to the Broad Market Area, to better reflect the costs of rents in the South Hams.
- The Council would encourage the development of an exemplar site of low carbon modular housing such as ZEDpods, to show that developments like this can be both stylish and great to live in.
- South Hams District Council also agreed to actively seek opportunities to invest in Council owned social housing with highly sustainable specification.
- To lobby Government to allow local councils to be able to charge 200% Council Tax on second / holiday homes, as they do in Wales.
Cllr Hilary Bastone, South Hams District Council's Deputy Leader added: "It is so very important for our residents, their families and their future generations that we tackle this problem now. We need to do everything in our power to enable local residents to have a decent home. If people move away because they cannot afford to live here or they cannot find affordable rented properties, then our towns and communities will collapse.
"I am pleased that our motion was passed by full Council, but now is the time for us to stop talking and take action."
Issued 24 September 2021