• Empty homes problem?  “Build more!” say East Devon Tories

    1st December 2011 | News | Claire
  • Instead, councillors claimed the solution to the growing problem of empty second homes was to ‘flood the market’ with more houses.

    And leader of the council, Cllr Paul Diviani appears to have changed his mind since backing a similar proposal at a Devon County Council meeting in October.

    I had initially lodged a Notice of Motion at a full East Devon District Council meeting on 12 October, calling on the Government to remove the council tax discount on empty second homes. 

    But at this meeting, no vote took place because leader of the council, Paul Diviani, requested the issue be brought before East Devon District Council’s all-Conservative cabinet instead.

    At the cabinet meeting, which took place last night, I told members that I was worried that East Devon had a significant and growing problem of second home ownership. 

    The number of second homes empty for most of the year, has now reached 2,442 – bigger than the size of Ottery St Mary.

    It is a rise of 25 per cent in just seven years.

    The move would raise much-needed revenue for the council, especially in the difficult economic climate.

    The total public income from abolishing the existing 10 per cent discount on empty second homes in East Devon would be £366,000.  EDDC’s portion would be £29,000.

    Cllrs Tim Wood and Graham Godbeer claimed that the NoM would not make any difference to the numbers of available properties and what was needed instead was the building of more houses, which would bring prices down.

    There was general agreement that this was the best way forward, and leader, Cllr Diviani added his agreement.  He said:  “Yes, flood the market.”

    But Cllr Diviani can be viewed on a webcast of a Devon County Council meeting on 6 October, supporting a NoM to abolish the discount on empty second homes. 

    Instead of backing the NoM, last night’s Conservative cabinet endorsed a set of responses to a Government consultation on council tax (appendix B of the report on empty dwellings from 30 November papers).

    The decision is perverse.  There was nothing to lose and everything to gain. 

    The idea that building more houses will help is strange.  If the core issue isn’t tackled, the more houses that are built, the bigger the problem grows.