In his presentation to the citizens panel, cllr Cornelius set out 6 key policy proposals:
1) Scrap the the two child cap on Child Tax Credits,
This measure is forcing families into poverty perhaps more than any other ‘Welfare reform’ policy
2) Legislate to make make long-term tenancies the norm for housing in the Private Rented Sector
Contracts for at least three years, perhaps five would be preferable.
The current system creates a level of insecurity and instability, that makes it difficult for families and communities to flourish.
Just under 20% of Cornish households live in the PRS (Private Rented Sector) but nearly a quarter of children and young people under 19 years are housed in it.
Shockingly nearly a third of ‘under five’s’ are living in PRS households!
Private Rented Sector homes are more likely to contain families with dependent children than either social housing or owner occupier homes.
3) Impose system of Rent Controls for Private Rented Sector Housing.
A good start perhaps, would be to cap rental charges for any home that does not meet the threshold for being a ‘Decent Home’, to no more than maximum permitted Housing Benefit payment. This would give the owners of such properties an incentive to improve them.
Private Landlords are generally extracting enormous sums from both directly from their tenants and via the benefit system, yet many housing benefit claimants are being paid less than they need to meet their rents while the level of improvement in PRS properties is generally low.
Nationally a third of PRS properties do not meet the ‘Decent Homes’ standard, in Cornwall the situation is worse, 50% of PRS homes fall below this standard!
In Cornwall 35% of PRS tenants claim Housing Benefit of whom two thirds are receiving less than their rental costs (a total of 15,000 Cornish households are being impoverished in this way).
Public Spending should be redirected from Housing Benefit payments towards the provision of social housing.
4) Charge double Council Tax on all second homes and holiday lets and use this additional levy to provide social housing.
There are approaching 25,000 such properties in Cornwall, they are one of the main reasons for the ‘affordability gap’ between local earnings and local housing costs.
(An estimated 2000 of these are former social homes purchased under Right To Buy)
Cornwall is the only place in the UK that qualified for the EU aid given to low income areas, where housing costs are not lower than the national average.
This ‘affordability gap’ damages the local economy by eroding the disposable income of local households.
To own a second home/holiday let is a luxury that is also be a lucrative investment and a source of income.
It is elementary social justice, for the owners of such luxuries to pay a tax upon them, for the purpose of providing a necessity for others.
5) Scrap the tax loopholes that allows the owners of second/holiday homes to register them as small business premises and thereby avoid paying either Council Tax or Business Rates.
There are over 6000 such properties in Cornwall, being subsidised to the extent of £11 million per year. This money should be redirected towards the provision of social housing
6) Councils should be able to use planning restrictions to prevent second/holiday homes from hollowing out communities.
In areas where this is an issue, planning permission for change of use should be required, before a ‘primary residence’ can become a second home.
Most second homes/holiday lets are unused for most of the year, the benefit they bring to local economy is often overstated and their impact on community cohesion is negative.
Hotels, holiday parks etc create more jobs and spending in the local economy per visitor, without eroding the supply of housing for local families.
Cllr Cornelius Olivier