All new-build properties in St Ives will be reserved for locals, rather than second home buyers, after St Ives residents voted in favour of housing reform.
The resident held referendum was set-up following the surge in holiday homes in the popular seaside town, which many blame for the lack of reasonably priced housing for locals.
Census data from 2011 showed that around 25% of homes in the Cornish town were not occupied by the owner or in other words used as a holiday home, a 67% increase since 2001.
The trend has seen house prices soar and many local people priced out of the property market. Communities are also suffering with many of the properties sitting empty for most part of the year.
More than 80% of voters backed the reform, which made up part of a 108-page Neighbourhood Plan.
A Neighbourhood Plan can set policies on where developments should go, how developments are designed and give permission for certain types of development and if approved becomes a legal part of the planning system.
We are so pleased with the result in St Ives! Great to see local people having a real say in their communities :)https://t.co/kROSG9OACy— Cornwall YoungGreens (@CornwallYG) May 7, 2016
Councils need to be bolder
It remains to be seen whether this policy will benefit the community in St Ives.
As an area that thrives on tourism local businesses are worried visitors could be put off by what could be perceived as an anti-outsider stance.
Meanwhile there’s no telling how the developers building the new homes will react to the imposed limit on who they can sell to.
But I think it’s a great idea and more councils should consider bolder plans like this to protect and grow local communities.
I moved to Reading four years ago because I was priced out of buying anything, anywhere in London, where I was born and grew up.
But I fear my new home town will soon become unaffordable and I will be pushed even further out and even further away from my friends and family.
Reading has a slightly different problem to St Ives: buy-to-let property investors.
Recently, when we put an offer in on a new home closer to the station, we were almost immediately outbid by what were told was an investor who offered well above the asking price and didn’t need a mortgage.
The property was near the main station, which by 2018 will also be part of the Crossrail network, so the area has become much more attractive to investors.
There has also been concern about developers responsible for new housing in the town centre selling off-plan i.e. before the property has even been built.
As it is hard to secure a mortgage on these types of deals, many are being sold to investors that have cash rather than local people that have to find a way to finance the purchase.
Currently there is no limit to how many properties in a development can be sold off-plan.
One frustrated house-hunter, Tom Hassall, launched a petition last year calling for a cap on the number of buy-to-let investors in an area.
One supporter who signed the petition said: “I have absolutely seen estate agents prefer investors- they know the money is fast and immediate with minimum effort on their part to try to broker a deal for an independent purchaser.”
A simple rule to allow only locals who will use the property as their sole residence could really help with the housing shortage in the area and curb the rise of investors in Reading.
St Ives referendum: Second homes ban backed by voters - https://t.co/ppwgezfla4. Pathetic!!!— Stacey Giaccardo (@StaceyGiaccardo) May 7, 2016
What’s being done?
The problem of holiday home buyers and buy-to-let investors isn’t new and finally this year the Government took action to help subdue the market.
In April, a new 3% Stamp Duty surcharge was launched which applies to anyone buying a second home or buy-to-let property, making the transaction a lot more expensive.
But areas like St Ives must have a suspicion deep down that this won’t do much to stop wealthy buyers and investors carrying on as usual.
Frankly neither do I.
In Reading I reckon the launch of Crossrail in 2018 will make taking the 3% hit worthwhile for investors.
In order to preserve the balance in communities I think councils should step in and create new rules to help locals stay local.
What do you think?
Should more councils act to make some or all local homes for local people?
This article reflects the opinions of the writer, not any corporate view held by BT.