Simon Jenkins is being uncharacteristically naive to suggest that a way through the destructiveness caused by mass second homers is a “voluntary charter” of commitment to the community, such as shopping locally or helping local charities (Second homes can be a blight and a blessing on British towns. We need the right balance, 25 June). If they survive, shops become like residential property – overpriced, driving the remaining local people to the big-town supermarkets. Winter-dead villages and towns, where 60% of “homes” can be empty except on holidays such as Christmas, will not thrive on voluntary undertakings to buy a dozen eggs and a kilo of spuds.
And overcrowded Britain cannot be compared to rural France or Sicily. On the Isle of Wight, where I live, the shortage of housing is acute and catastrophically worsened by second-home buyers pushing up prices for once-modest homes. The island council’s solution seems to be to permit more expensive new housing. That might boost council tax coffers, but it also draws in more outsiders, putting further strain on creaking infrastructure.
But perhaps this is what our illustrious prime minister calls “levelling up”.
Yarmouth, Isle of Wight
I usually delight in Simon Jenkins’ incisive writing, so it was sadly amusing to see him so conflicted and wrestling with guilt over his second home in Wales. It is difficult to think of any practice more antisocial than owning two homes, particularly when young people find it almost impossible to afford one.
Second-home owners not only damage local communities: they are gifted an enormous capital gain by the impact of quantitative easing. They are lightly taxed when they realise their gains. No doubt some will seek to turn a holiday home into a business: perhaps it is time for the return of the unearned income surcharge to cope with our nation of rentiers.
Mr Jenkins should not resent the local authority raising council tax to deter or seek reparation. Owning a second home is already the province of the very rich, and there are many ways to enjoy a stay in a beauty spot without damaging the local community. Has he thought of a superyacht?
Simon Jenkins admits to being part of the problem of second-home blight and declares himself “acutely aware of the dismay” felt by the community where his second home is located. Maybe that is because of second homes inflating house prices. Here in coastal Norfolk, even well-paid local workers can have difficulty affording modest properties.
Jenkins tries to persuade us (and presumably himself and his part-time neighbours) that second homes can be a “blessing”, painting an idyllic picture where communities actively engage, befriend and forge “bonds of affection” with second-home owners. In my road, 20% of the houses are second homes. They are empty the vast majority of the time. When people are staying in them, it can be hard to get a response to a friendly hello.
The idea of a voluntary register, in which second-home owners commit to occupying the homes for a given amount of time and supporting local shops, activities and charities, is laughable. There is nothing to stop them doing that already.
West Runton, Norfolk