Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Greed of Having Two Houses

For some time now I have been very strongly opposed to people owning two houses. To me it seems very difficult to justify. In 2005, local authorities estimated that there were 162,990 households unintentionally homeless. Contrast this with over 200,000 second homes in England and Wales. Clearly, there is a serious problem.

In today's Guardian, George Monbiot calls for secondary homes to be 'prohibitively expensive' with a council tax of '500% for all second homes'. It may be an old fashioned view (the raising of taxes to a prohibitive level), but in certain cases it would appear to be the best way forward. Of course, as Monbiot concedes, this would not stop the rich from purchasing second homes, the tax would have little impact on their vast bank accounts. It would, however, make many middle-class home owners think twice. This would, in turn, see a cooling off period in the housing market, slowing down the ridiculous rise in house prices to a more sustainable level. It has become increasingly difficult for young low income earners to get onto the property ladder as prices continue to rise. A lack of affordable housing, caused by properties being snapped up and sold for profit, simply exacerbates the situation. Furthermore, I would argue that the discounts on council tax for those who own a second home should, of course, be scrapped. Why should they reap the benefits while low income families pay the cost?

Second homes are, like 4x4s, the preserve of the middle classes. That said, it is hard to see how any government can force through changes of this nature in a nation of rabid Daily Mail reading capitalists. This government is certainly not going to risk the further wrath of Middle England, let alone the Tories.