Nick Clegg, for reasons of political need, has been on about taxing people who own second homes. Given that Nick's fellow MPs are from places like Cornwall, the Lake District and North Norfolk it's not surprising that this is a key line to take for the Liberal Democrat leader. And he's saying that it's these out-of-town semi-residents that make housing unaffordable for local folk:
Out-of-town property owners are “filleting” local communities and leaving young people in rural communities unable to buy homes, the Deputy Prime Minister said.
So what's the evidence for this then? Thoughtfully the article quoting Nick Clegg's words also tell us how many second home owners there are in these places.
More than 165,000 Britons own a holiday home, according to the 2011 census. Of these, 23,000 have properties in Cornwall.
The area with the highest concentration of holiday homes is Gwynedd in North Wales. There are 121,874 usual residents and 7,784 holiday homeowners – meaning 64 “townies” for every 1,000 locals.
In North Norfolk, there are 4,842 holiday homeowners and 101,000 residents – a ratio of 48 holiday dwellers for every 1,000 locals.
Now, I've no doubt that these owners of second homes have an effect but it does seem to be, at most, a pretty marginal effect. The problem is that people with valuable houses in places like Twickenham (represented by one Vince Cable MP) and the posh part of Sheffield (Nick Clegg's seat) are retiring, selling up and buying a nice retirement place near the sea. Plus, of course, the fact that planning rules mean that there's almost nowhere in places like Devon, the Cotswolds or North Norfolk where you're actually allowed to build a house.
But instead of addressing the real problem, the Lib Dems prefer just shouting at a few rich people who probably aren't the problem. Rather sums up everything about that party really.