Around 800 second home owners in Harrogate district could be hit by double council tax charges

Around 800 second home owners in the Harrogate district could be hit by double council tax charges under proposals to tackle the affordable housing crisis.

By Jacob Webster
Tuesday, 5th July 2022, 9:31 am
Updated Wednesday, 6th July 2022, 9:35 am

North Yorkshire County Council has proposed the 100% premium on council tax bills for all second homes in the county from April 2024.

Official figures show there were 793 second homes in Harrogate last year and the county council said these could generate an extra £1.5 million a year to fund services and affordable housing schemes.

Across North Yorkshire, the tax hike could create around £14 million annually, the county council added.

There are concerns the 100% premium on council tax bills could flood the housing market with properties and devalue homes.

Councillor Carl Les, leader of the Conservative-run county council, described second homes as a “major issue” for areas across the country and said the proposals for North Yorkshire would depend on the government passing legislation in the coming months.

He said: “The county is a wonderful place to live and visit, and that has seen the trend towards people wanting to purchase a property either as a second home or a holiday let.

“Any proposed premium on second home owners will be carefully considered and debated by the council before the new legislation is introduced.

“But the revenue generated would prove to be a key source of funding to help to bridge the new council’s budgets and finance vital areas such as homelessness costs and also providing more affordable housing.”

The proposal has also been welcomed by councillor Pat Marsh, leader of Harrogate’s Liberal Democrats, who said holiday hotspots are in danger of “becoming ghost towns” because of second homes.

She said: “Villages in these desirable areas, in particular, suffer from the viability of not just shops and pubs, but also schools and in some areas the impact is also felt through losses of GPs and other NHS services.

“That is why the Lib Dems welcome the proposal to charge a council tax premium on second homes.

Residents of these largely rural communities are finding it increasingly difficult to get onto the property ladder because of huge demand for holiday homes pushing up the overall price of property out of their reach.

“In some extreme areas this has created resentment and bitterness as locals cannot afford to buy property in their own communities.”

The number of second homes in Harrogate has increased by more than 13% over the last decade and it has been argued the problem puts a strain on an already limited housing stock at a time when high house prices are driving low-income earners out of the district.

Yet the proposed tax hike has been met with opposition from some politicians who fear it could devalue homes and undermine businesses which depend on second home owners.

There are also concerns it could lead to second home owners transferring their properties to holiday lets to qualify for discounted business rates.

Councillor Stuart Parsons, leader of the Independent group on the county council, described the move as “one of the stupidest suggestions the Tories have ever come up with”.

He said the proposals would cause more damage than good as there would be “so many loopholes people could dodge out of paying the premium as they wish”.

These concerns have led to an investigation into whether residents with more than one property could swerve paying the extra charge.

The county council’s executive yesterday agreed to delay a decision on the proposed tax hike so that it could become part of its budget decisions.

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter