With as many as 1,500 second homes across the Yorkshire Dales, around 10% of the total housing stock, councils are taking action.
The average cost of a home in the Yorkshire Dales is now £264,933, according to Rightmove data – around 20.7% more than the national average of £209,998.
Prices have crept higher and higher as more people have been snapping up properties to keep as holiday homes, taking advantage of the idyllic countryside location as an occasional retreat rather than a permanent residence, and this has had a knock-on effect for the local communities.
As working-age people and young families have migrated away from the national park – an issue which has been blamed on affordability – shops, schools and local amenities have suffered or even closed.
One local business owner and leader of Richmondshire District council Yvonne Peacock said: “Every time something goes on the market it’s sold as a second home because our own people can’t afford to buy them.”
Council tax hikes
One measure that has been suggested to deter second homeowners and encourage more resident buyers is to raise council tax levels for second homes. The level of increase has not been determined, but Yorkshire Dales chief executive David Butterworth previously suggested a hike of as much as 10 times local council tax rates.
A group of local politicians and campaigners will call for more powers to tackle the issue at a national park authority meeting later this month.
Richard Foster, the leader of Craven district council, said: “I think we’ve come to the point where we would not be doing our duty if we didn’t take a serious look at second homes. Do we really want to be known as the generation that sat on our hands while our communities fell apart?”
In one small dale, Arkengarthdale, as many as 35% of all the houses are second homes, and the local school has just 14 pupils. This is a huge drop on the 40 pupils that attended the school five years ago.
“We are trying very hard to keep the school open as it gives a heart to the community, but it is difficult,” said Charles Cody, the chair of governors. “Looking forward, if nobody new moves into the area, we are going to struggle.”
Building for communities
Suggestions that building more affordable housing in the area in order to make it more accessible for locals have been met by mixed reactions. Although increasing the housing stock could bring down average house prices and even out the gap between property prices and local wages, the new-builds could still be snapped up by second homeowners.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England also opposes the idea of building thousands of new homes in areas of outstanding national beauty – around 15,500 properties have been approved or built over the past five years in such areas, which the group sees as a huge sacrifice.
Foster added: “Local authorities in the Dales are putting an immense amount of work into trying to get new, affordable homes built. But so many homes are being lost to second home ownership that the positive effects of the new homes are being cancelled out.”