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Second-home Owners Are Among The Most Selfish People In Britain - Guardian Article

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George Monbiot, tho' way off beam on most issues, hits the target here. A good ding dong happening on the Guardian comment website under the piece as well

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/st...1780885,00.html

Second-home owners are among the most selfish people in Britain

Every purchase of a second house deprives someone else of a first one. The only answer is to tax them prohibitively

George Monbiot

Tuesday May 23, 2006

The Guardian

What greater source of injustice could there be, that while some people have no home, others have two? Yet the vampire trade in second homes keeps growing - by 3% a year - uninhibited by government or by the conscience of the buyers. Every purchase of a second house deprives someone else of a first one. But to speak out against it is to identify yourself as a killjoy and a prig.

If you travel to Worth Matravers - the chocolate-box village in Dorset in which 60% of the houses are owned by ghosts - you will not find hordes of homeless people camping on the pavements in cardboard boxes. The market does not work like that. Young people from the village, unable to buy locally, have moved away, and contributed to the housing pressure somewhere else. The impacts of the ghost market might be invisible to the purchasers, but this does not mean they aren't real. Second-home owners are perhaps the most selfish people in the United Kingdom.

In England and Wales there are 250,000 second homes. In England there are 221,000 people classed as single homeless or living in hostels or temporary accommodation. (These desperate cases comprise about 24% of those in need of social housing.) I am not arguing that if every underused house were turned back into a home the problem of acute homelessness would be solved. I am arguing that homelessness has been exacerbated by the government's failure to ensure that houses are used for living in.

This issue received some rare press coverage last week when the Affordable Rural Housing Commission published its report. It suggested that second-home owners might be taxed more heavily in some places or that planning permission should be required to turn a home into a ghost house. Its ideas, though mild and tentative, were received with fury. "If the government adopts these proposals," the Telegraph roared, "it will be in order further to punish middle-class voters and to benefit from a grievance culture stoked by envy". In the Guardian, Simon Jenkins suggested that the commission's proposals would deny "existing homeowners the value of their property and thus mobility for themselves and their children. It is a crazy wealth tax on the rural poor ... To imply that those bringing new money and, in many cases, new economic activity to rural Britain are a social evil is leftwing archaism."

If caring about homelessness makes you a leftwing dinosaur, I raise my claw. It is true that clamping down on second homes would suppress house prices in the countryside, by a little. That is part of the point. But it is not as if rural homeowners are suffering from low values. The day before his column was published, the Halifax produced figures showing that the average rural house costs £208,699 (or 6.7 times average annual earnings), while the average town house costs £176,115. Jenkins seems to be asking us to care more about the profits of those who are already rich in capital than about the people who have nothing but a box to sleep in. It is also true that at weekends and during the holiday season, second-home owners can bring new trade to local shops - especially the kind of picturesque boutiques which smoke their own fish and sell jam jars with paper hats on. But for the rest of the year, because the village is half-empty, business dies.

The environmental impact must also be stupendous. It is hard enough to accommodate the houses we do need in the countryside, let alone the fake homes now being built for weekenders. Open the pages of any property supplement and you will find advertisements for new "holiday lodges" in Cornwall, Dorset, Pembrokeshire and Norfolk. Regional airports are springing up (or trying to spring up) wherever City brokers start pricing out the locals. (People with second homes abroad cause even more damage: one survey suggests they take an average of six return flights a year.) This is to say nothing of the environmental costs of maintaining two homes, and doubtless leaving the security lights on and the appliances on standby while you continue your life elsewhere.

For all these reasons, I believe the commission's proposals don't go far enough. It treats second-home ownership as a local problem, confined to the most desirable parts of the countryside. It doesn't consider the wider contribution that owning them makes to homelessness, or to the destruction of the environment. Nor does it make the point - almost always missed by the media - that the majority of second homes (155,000 of the 250,000) are in towns and cities, where middle-aged businessmen turn what might have been starter flats into pieds-à-terre. I accept that it's a rural housing commission, but I can't help wondering whether this acknowledgement might have caused some trouble for Elinor Goodman - the commission's chair - who has a second home in Westminster.

I would like to see the ownership of second homes become prohibitively expensive, wherever they might be. It remains cheaper to own a second house than to own a first one. The government has reduced the rebate on council tax for ghost homes from 50% to 10%, but it still seems outrageous that there should be a discount of any size. Worse, as a letter to the Guardian pointed out yesterday, people are buying up weekend homes as fake holiday lets and setting these "loss-making business" against tax. Plainly this loophole needs to be closed. But why not a 500% council tax for all second homes, which local authorities are obliged to hypothecate: to use, in other words, for new social housing? It won't stop the richest people from buying extra houses, but at least the people at the bottom of the ladder get something back.

Often we're told that punitive taxes of this kind won't work, because couples could register their homes separately. But this would surely be possible only for people who are neither married nor in a civil partnership. It doesn't stop the government from levying capital-gains tax.

The real problem is that almost every MP with a constituency outside London has two homes or more, and there is scarcely a senior journalist who is not sucking the life out of a village somewhere, or a paper which does not depend on advertising by estate agents. Two weeks ago the Sunday Times revealed that the Labour MP Barbara Follett, who owns a £2m house in her constituency (in Stevenage), a flat in Soho and homes in Antigua and Cape Town, has claimed £76,357 in Commons expenses over the past four years for her London pad. Perhaps it isn't hard to see why MPs aren't clamouring for something to be done. On Friday, Peter Mandelson - the man who says what Blair thinks - told a conference that Labour's primary challenge was to find solutions "to the angst of the hard-working middle class ... It's not old Labour territory we have forgotten and which is detaching itself but the New Labour territory we have occupied since 1997 which is at risk."

In other words, the chances of getting the government to force the abandonment of second homes are approximately zero. But that should not stop us from pointing out that it is unacceptable to let the rich deprive the poor of their homes.

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My God! Monbiot writing something that makes sense! Surely that is a sign that the end times are upon us?

BTW, why is there some stupid ad covering half of this window today so I can't see what I'm typing?

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Are these people with second homes the same people who are opposing new developments? If any do, that would be loading insult on injury.

Billy Shears

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I still dont get why 2nd home owners pay LESS council tax!!

Because they're Labour politicians.

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Great article and a very good idea - although a 500% increase in council tax might be a bit on the steep side. Certainly they should not get reduced tax. Second houses are luxuries (and unlike most luxuries, are consumed to the detriment of other) and should be taxed as luxuries. So many people will never be able to buy in their home villages. An increase in tax on holiday homes is only right.

One problem of course is that one half of a couple will register as living in the holiday cottage, so it will probably make very little difference.

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Fantastic. It's just a pity EVERYONE in this country hasn't read that and decided to strike and riot until something is done about it.

While they are accepted into their communities they will continue.. (or until the debt actually registers as real...)

Stop selling them beer, petrol... food.. when they visit.. and let your dogs foul their land.. :)

and the country does not need their five ish weeks of spending in the local spar a year to keep going.. that is conscience freeing obvious tosh..

Great article and a very good idea - although a 500% increase in council tax might be a bit on the steep side. Certainly they should not get reduced tax. Second houses are luxuries (and unlike most luxuries, are consumed to the detriment of other) and should be taxed as luxuries. So many people will never be able to buy in their home villages. An increase in tax on holiday homes is only right.

One problem of course is that one half of a couple will register as living in the holiday cottage, so it will probably make very little difference.

loopholes can be plugged.

20% of percieved value per anum and 150% taxed against equity at point of sale.. and then blindfold them and throw them in a pit of hungry cats...

:)

Seriously.. the only reason we have not bought is that there have been people prepared to spend more then us..

That these people could not afford to is becoming as obvious as we said it would.

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Two weeks ago the Sunday Times revealed that the Labour MP Barbara Follett, who owns a £2m house in her constituency (in Stevenage), a flat in Soho and homes in Antigua and Cape Town, has claimed £76,357 in Commons expenses over the past four years for her London pad. Perhaps it isn't hard to see why MPs aren't clamouring for something to be done.

Perhaps it's time MPs' benefits were means-tested?

Greedy ....

:angry:

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While they are accepted into their communities they will continue.. (or until the debt actually registers as real...)

Stop selling them beer, petrol... food.. when they visit.. and let your dogs foul their land.. :)

and the country does not need their five ish weeks of spending in the local spar a year to keep going.. that is conscience freeing obvious tosh..

I'm surprised the priced out locals don't vandalise the places. Doubt there are any police nearby as they, no doubt, can't afford to live there!!!

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While they are accepted into their communities they will continue.. (or until the debt actually registers as real...)

Bit difficult when there are so many 'second homes' in the country that they've _become_ 'the community' as all the people who would have lived there have had to move to the cities.

The nice thing is, if house prices crash and they have to sell, they'll be hard-pressed to find anyone to buy because they've already been priced out and left.

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People say that if taxes for second homes are significantly increased, then people won't register them as second homes. So, what's the best way of finding out which homes are second homes? If somone owns two or more homes and can't produce valid documentation for tenants, then they could be billed for one or more of the houses. But couples could register one home in each of their names. So what's the answer?

My answer would be to give a financial reward for finding information leading to the conviction of owners for tax avoidance. If someone in a street could make a few grand for knowing which of their neighbours doesn't really live there, then there'd probably be a fair bit of information coming in.

Taking this plan a step further, introduce a law stating that if someone can build a solid case that shows that someone has failed to declare a second home, they get the house!

Billy Shears

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Bit difficult when there are so many 'second homes' in the country that they've _become_ 'the community' as all the people who would have lived there have had to move to the cities.

The nice thing is, if house prices crash and they have to sell, they'll be hard-pressed to find anyone to buy because they've already been priced out and left.

And if they left, where would the locals work, those forced out would certainly not simply ignore being hounded out and come back for day trips, tourism would be down the pan and the economic model would be screwed anyway.

Plus it ignores those who can pay most for houses, those who are retiring to the country villages, selling up eslewhere, they are a much bigger problem......, unless all the country youth want to learn to work in nursing homes then they are not going to create much wealth.....

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If somone owns two or more homes and can't produce valid documentation for tenants, then they could be billed for one or more of the houses. But couples could register one home in each of their names. So what's the answer?

So Blair's police state will track our every move, but won't be able to tell whether a couple own two houses?

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My God! Monbiot writing something that makes sense! Surely that is a sign that the end times are upon us?

Why the Monbiot bashing? He's always made sense to me, but I accept he does often say what's difficult to hear. Have I missed something?

The more staggering thing is that the Guardian printed it! :unsure:

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Second-home owners are perhaps the most selfish people in the United Kingdom.

Quality.

The trouble is they're also (by definition) the least likely to care what the rest of us think.

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Have I missed something?

Other than that he's a greenist loon who wants to impose a global government?

That said, it does explain why he supports higher taxes on second home owners rather than the removal of planning permission so people who live in the country can build houses wherever they want.

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Other than that he's a greenist loon who wants to impose a global government?

That said, it does explain why he supports higher taxes on second home owners rather than the removal of planning permission so people who live in the country can build houses wherever they want.

Lol! 'Greenest' and 'loon' don't really go together!

Prohibitive taxation and responsible development is what we need. At the moment we have neither. :rolleyes:

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Guest Guy_Montag

I'm a bit ambivilant towards this, I agree that second-home owners stifle local communities, contrary to what Rachman says, most people visiting their country homes or staying in a self-catering cottage buy most of their food & drink before they leave. ("But James, I'm not sure they sell blinis in Budleigh") Who wants to spend their holiday shopping after all? Better from a community point of view to stay in B&Bs or hotels which source their produce locally.

Now, I have to state an interest here, my Granny has a holiday home a few hours drive from her house. She & my Grand-dad bought it derelict in the mid seventies for the princely sum of £400. I would be very unhappy if it became financially impossible for her to hold onto it. (Since if I get fed up with my job - I fancy moving there & turning it into a small holding.)

Oh yes, & in general Monboit seems to be fairly sensible.

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Oh yes, & in general Monboit seems to be fairly sensible.

Only in a country full of nimbies who think that when national government is a failure, global government will work better.

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So Blair's police state will track our every move, but won't be able to tell whether a couple own two houses?

I was hoping that the police state wouldn't get too developed. Though it would be technically possible for bank withdrawls, credit card usage, etc., to bring up people who own a house but haven't been in the area for months.

Billy Shears

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You might want to ask Mr Monbiot about the properties his family owns/has owned........... - but of course as a radical Oxford graduate who had the cash to spend half his life galllivanting and being oh so ethical and environmentally friendly using jet planes he will no doubt disown all that and no doubt the patronage he has enjoyed courtesy of his parents (Tory Council Leader and Tory Party bigwig....) :)

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Though it would be technically possible for bank withdrawls, credit card usage, etc., to bring up people who own a house but haven't been in the area for months.

In Blairworld you'll need an ID card to buy tickets on public transport, and your car will be tracked automatically by cameras. It will be difficult to claim that you're living in Devon when you haven't been out of London for six months.

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How could a LABOUR government have presided over such a social injustice?

Here in Ireland it is no different of course.

Food and shelter are basic necessities for all. It is no different to the rich buying up all the food and selling it back to the poor at inflated prices.

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How could a LABOUR government have presided over such a social injustice?

Because they're selfish, thieving scum?

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