It is really worrying that there are over 3000 (3,096) houses in East Devon that have been empty for more than six months – that’s one and a half times the size of Ottery St Mary. 

Most of that number (2,338), are second homes – it is a terrible waste.

Around 3,000 households are waiting to be housed on East Devon District Council’s housing needs register.

If the Government is really serious about providing homes for people it should address the growing problem of second home ownership as a priority. 

Leaving houses empty for months on end is damaging to local economies, community life and deprives local people of a place to live.  It also means that taxpayers are subsidising home owners who have second homes.

We hear a lot from the Government about building more houses but we have heard nothing about addressing the problem of long-term empty houses. What is the point of simply covering the countryside in houses when a considerable proportion of them here continue to be bought up and left empty for much of the year?

Currently, councils can charge a maximum of 90 per cent of council tax on a second home.

Cllr Wright said: The housing department at East Devon District Council is working on bringing empty homes back into use and it can be a difficult and long process to track down home owners and persuade them to occupy their properties.

I believe we have to end this counter intuitive system of council tax discounts and instead introduce a sensible charge.

Doubling the council tax for second homes in East Devon could bring around £400,000 into EDDC’s coffers.  Money which could be spent on resources to bring more private empty homes back into use.

It might also deter more people from snapping up houses in the countryside which get lived in just a few weeks of the year.

Central Government must play its part in this and take some responsibility.  It has cut council funds by around 30 per cent, there is a housing need and a solution must be found beyond the obvious of ‘let’s build more.