Devon’s key workers could be helped into homes

Devon’s key workers could be helped into much-needed homes as part of a plan to help tackle the County’s housing crisis which was highlighted by the Liberal Democrats at County Hall.

Councils across Devon say the housing market is rapidly changing with private rented homes in short supply and some second home owners dodging paying Council Tax by switching to Business Rates and then claiming exemption from payment as a small business.

To help tenants currently in private rented accommodation, the Lib Dems at County Hall also called for the notice period to leave to be extended back to six months as it was previously under the pandemic.

Cllr Alan Connett, Leader of the Opposition Liberal Democrats at Devon County Council, said:” There is a housing crisis in Devon and while many people may not see it, the problems for those in private rented and looking for homes to rent are particularly challenging.

“It’s also been estimated that councils across the region are losing around £16 million a year in Council Tax because of the tax dodge which allows owners to ‘flip’ and say their second home is available to let and therefore a business. Once registered as a business, they claim the small business exemption and pay nothing at all.

“Housing is a challenge for all councils, regardless of any Party politics and our Motion to Devon County Council was drafted to bring consensus and a plan of action. We’re delighted with the result from today’s Cabinet meeting at County Hall,” added Cllr Connett.

Recommendations councillors will consider when the council meets on December 2nd, include the county council assessing the potential for it to offer accommodation to new social and key workers which will help attract them to work for the County Council.

In addition, a Strategic Housing Taskforce involving the County, district, city and borough councils in Devon could be set up to draw together the housing work already being done and focus on tackling homelessness and improving the availability of much needed affordable housing. Lobbying Members of Parliament in Devon for a rules change so owners of holiday and second homes have to show they are actually being let rather than simply available for letting, is also a recommendation.

Cllr Connett added:”It’s too easy at the moment for second home owners to flip from Council Tax to Business Rates and then pay nothing. One option is for planning permission to be required to change to a business us. This may help keep more homes in the private rented sector and that would be a step in the right direction. I welcome the recommendations to Devon County Council next month and the positive response to the Liberal Democrats motion calling for action.”