National park life a significant supply and demand problem

by Gary Whittaker

The private rental sector has a crucial role to play in helping provide housing, not least in areas where buying a home can be prohibitively expensive.

An obvious area where this is the case is London, where private landlords and letting agents are responsible for housing millions of people. 

Naturally enough, anything happening to do with housing in the crowded capital city under the noses of the locally-based national media is sure to garner plenty of attention; not least when it is noted that a significant proportion of the residential property in some parts of the metropolis - mainly the 'prime central' area in the western part of central London - is owned by overseas investors who may only live there part of the time. 

However, while many draw contrasts between high net worth investors who own West End mansions and priced-out Londoners, it is not just in the capital where issues of multiple home ownership impact on the supply of homes.

A place in the country

This is particularly the case in a number of attractive rural and coastal areas, where those with sufficient means to do so have snapped up a significant slice of the available properties. The issue of second homes in places such as Cornwall, rural Wales and various national parks has been a sore point for many.

Private landlords may offer a rental solution, and with this being the case, they and agents may keep a close eye on the efforts of some to curb second home ownership through imposing prohibitively high council tax rates on such properties.

The Dales plan

A number of Welsh authorities have debated such measures, but this week has seen attempts to implement a five-fold hike in council tax on second homes in the Yorkshire Dales National Park being thwarted.

While national park authorities have power over a range of issues including planning, it is still the local councils who set the tax levels. Therefore, the Dales plan could only work if all eight local authorities whose territory covers parts of the national park backed the plan.

Hard cheese

In the event, Richmondshire - which includes towns and villages such as Hawes and Aysgarth - voted 13-12 against the plan. 

Responding to this blow from the home of the Wensleydale Creamery, Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority chairman Carl Lis was somewhat cheesed off. He said: "It would be remiss of me not to make clear to the public that the proposition to talk to government has in effect been killed off."

An expanding issue

The issue is a significant one in the Dales, where the national park authority estimates ten per cent of properties are second homes. Moreover, buyers may be attracted to new areas that have come within it expanded boundaries in the last two years; the national park - along with the neighbouring Lake District - was expanded by a third in 2016 to encompass areas like Leck Fell in Lancashire and the Northern Howgills.

Formed in 1952, the original Yorkshire Dales boundaries were constrained by the West Riding boundary. Since 1974, however, much of the national park has been in Cumbria anyway and the recent expansion recognises the scenic qualities of areas like the northern Howgills, which used to be part of the now-defunct county of Westmorland.

However, this means first-time buyers in such places may now face similar competition from second home buyers. Moreover, if other national parks face similar problems of local authority vetoes, the need for agents and landlords to offer an affordable rental alternative to those unable to get on the housing ladder will be as real out in these rural idylls as it is in the bustling big cities. 

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02-March-18General Lettings News