Calls for action to tackle ‘housing crisis’ in Devon to go before county council

Measures aimed at tackling a ‘housing crisis’ in Devon are being called for by leading councillors. 

Rising prices and a shortage of rental properties has led to concerns that people whose families have lived in the county for generations are being ‘pushed away’.

It is also geared others are being put off from taking jobs in Devon, writes Local Democracy Reporter Ollie Heptinstall.

Devon County Council (DCC) recently estimated around 70 per cent of privately-owned properties that were rented out two years ago are no longer available for tenants.

Official figures revealed house prices in some parts of the county have risen by as much as 20 per cent in the past year.

The data from the Office for National Statistics also shows four per cent of properties in East Devon are now second homes.

At a full meeting of DCC on Thursday, October 7, will see Exeter councillor Rob Hannaford put forward a motion which ‘notes with concern that Devon is in the grips of a serious housing crisis’.

Exeter Exwick and St Thomas representative Councillor Hannaford,  leader of the authority’s Labour group,
says in the bid: “Second home sales are soaring, private landlords are switching to holiday letting in huge numbers, significantly fewer homes are available to buy or rent, and both renters and buyers are being priced out of the county in an unprecedented way.

“The post-pandemic far South West property boom has especially compounded decades of systemic under investment in social and affordable housing, that has prevented local councils, housing associations, alms houses and charities from investing in more much needed homes for local people and families.

“Home ownership is now only a distant dream for so many and people who’ve lived here for generations are being pushed further away by property prices that they simply cannot afford.”

Cllr Hannaford wants DCC to set up an action group to look at providing some key worker accommodation for its staff.

He also wants it to host and co-ordinate a ‘Devon Housing Forum’ to ‘develop a range of effective local and grass-roots solutions to help solve Devon’s housing crisis’.

Cllr Hannaford has asked MPs to help ensure that Michael Gove, now in charge of the renamed Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, ‘fully understands the collective housing challenges that we urgently face in Devon’.

DCC opposition leader, Lib Dem Cllr Alan Connett, will also ask that the authority calls on the the Government to ‘end the tax dodge loophole of second home owners switching from council tax to business rates’.

He says that a ‘small business’ exemption means some end up paying ‘nothing at all’.

Cllr Connett also wants Whitehall to re-extend the notice period given to tenants to six months and to maintain  local housing allowances at Covid levels to support families into homes.

He adds that DCC should work with district, city and borough councils to ‘establish a ‘housing taskforce’ working across the county to tackle the flight to Airbnb and holiday rentals and support the provision of urgently-needed rented housing on county owned land’.

DCC leader Cllr John Hart recently said the drop in private rental stock was ‘quite terrifying’, adding: “If teachers, nurses and young professionals were turning down opportunities to work here because there’s no accommodation to rent, that’s got to change.”

Councillors will discuss the motions and vote on whether to approve them at a meeting at Exeter’s Sandy Park on Thursday, October 7.

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