TECC Committee discusses second homes and options to implement a principal residence policy

At its meeting on 16 June 2022 the Tourism, Equalities, Communities & Culture Committee discussed a report by officers on second homes and implementation of a principal residence policy.

The report clearly outlined the challenges of introducing such a policy in a city the size of Brighton & Hove, and the impact it could have.

A principal residence policy (PRP) is implemented by a planning condition or Section 106 agreement when planning permission is granted. PRPs apply to new build housing only, as new local planning policy cannot apply to buildings that are already used as second homes or holiday lets.

Any such policy needs to be evidence-based. For example, 15-20% of homes in a particular area would need to be already in use as a second home or holiday let, putting a pressure on the local housing market.

The report confirmed that there has been more success with this approach in smaller seaside towns and villages where concentrations of second homes can be very high.

It highlighted that wider measures are needed at a national level to effectively tackle this problem.

The report identified the evidence and justification which is required to support such an approach and highlighted evidence gaps that need to be addressed. These included:

  • Analysis of 2021 Census data (due to be published later this year) to show how far numbers of second homes have increased 
  • A review of data at ward level to identify if there are local hotspots which are reaching/exceed a threshold of 20% of homes as having no usual residents
  • The impact of second and holiday homes on local communities, the economy and local services
  • The impact on housing affordability and availability.

The committee agreed to officers undertaking this further research as part of the review of City Plan Part 1, and for a range of policy options to be investigated subject to the results of this further work.

Policy options would include a supportive policy in the City Plan for Neighbourhood Plan policies as well as the possibility of a city-wide principal residence policy if justified by the available evidence.

Neighbourhood forums would be able to include a policy in their Neighbourhood Plan to restrict second homes if data showed that the proportion of second homes in the ward or area were close to or had exceeded a threshold of approximately 20%.

Any proposed principal residence policy to come through the City Plan Part 1 Review or Neighbourhood Plans would be subject to consultation. It would be robustly examined by an independent examiner and be formally adopted by the council before it could be implemented.

TECC Committee member Councillor Marianna Ebel said:

“We have a housing crisis and thousands of residents are on our housing waiting list. When used as short-term holiday lets, second homes not only reduce the number of much needed housing units, but can also cause massive problems for neighbours, such as anti-social behaviour and noise disturbances.

“There is a house in my ward that was previously used as a family home but is now used as a short-term holiday let for up to 10 guests. Neighbours have been suffering for month from noise disturbances and anti-social behaviour. We are trying to resolve the issues in this particular case through existing planning policy and through our environmental health service.

“But while limiting second homes through planning policy is a first step, I also believe that national legislation is needed to regulate existing short-term holiday lets, as planning policy can only target future buildings.

“This could be done by effectively taxing income from holiday homes, by limiting the number of days per year a holiday home can be rented out for profit, and by making it illegal to use houses as holiday homes if – like in Brighton & Hove – there is a great pressure on the housing market.”

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