Statement from Leader on the local housing market
25 August 2021
Leader of North Devon Council, Councillor David Worden has issued a statement regarding the local housing market in North Devon.
Councillor Worden says: “North Devon Council is the local housing authority. Our Lead Member for Housing, Councillor Nicola Topham, and I are acutely aware of how the local housing market is making it extremely difficult for local people, and people who wish to move to the area to work, to find suitable accommodation.
"House prices have risen significantly in North Devon, with some pockets seeing rises of 18% in the past 12 months. Many of the properties that have been sold in North Devon have been bought to be used as second homes or as short-term holiday lets and so are no longer available to local people. This is a very worrying trend and something that requires collective action from local and national government to tackle. The impacts are not just on the individuals but also on our economy and social structure, as businesses and public services are now finding it hard to attract new employees as a direct result of the shortage of permanent accommodation.
"Our council has been very active in its efforts to keep people housed. Over the course of the pandemic, our housing staff have worked tirelessly with their colleagues and with our partners. Between April 2020 and March 2021 our housing teams:
- were approached over 1,600 times and were able to prevent over 500 households becoming homeless
- assisted almost 300 households into social housing
- secured temporary accommodation for 241 people
- helped 142 people with deposits to get them into more secure rented accommodation
- accommodated 56 rough sleepers, and
- used new ‘pod’ style accommodation to successfully house seven different people who were rough sleeping, as well as providing higher levels of support to those experiencing homelessness
"We have also purchased a number of properties for use as emergency temporary accommodation which means that there is less reliance on bed and breakfast accommodation.
"Despite the pandemic, 117 new affordable homes were delivered and completed through the planning system in 2020/21 and as of 31 May 2021, we have approved 636 further affordable dwellings and are awaiting completion by developers.
"We are keen for residents to come forward when they are aware of derelict or empty properties that could be brought back into use and, in certain circumstances, offer loans to owners of those properties in an effort to encourage them to move them back into use. We want to use our existing housing as efficiently as possible.
"It is clear though, that the answer for the current problems goes beyond the powers of local authorities and goes beyond simply building more homes. It needs a joined up approach from local and national government to resolve these issues and will need honesty and commitment from all those involved. Our Policy Development Committee will be considering the issue in the round in the next couple of months and will be inviting participation from representative groups and others affected by the crisis. I will give further details about that as soon as arrangements have been made.
"In the meantime, we, along with other district councils in Devon, will be pushing our local MPs to continue to take up the issue with government and to press for steps to be taken to redress the balance. This includes measures such as tightening up on the criteria applied to properties to enable them to be valued for business rates, removing mortgage interest and Capital Gains tax relief from holiday rental properties and allowing councils to set higher council tax on second homes. We will also be asking the Government to consider incentive schemes to encourage landlords to let on the permanent rental market rather than the holiday market.
"This is an issue that will affect the character of North Devon if action is not taken now.”