Editor’s blog: A place to call home?

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The Cornish housing crisis hit the headlines again this week with news that despite the depressed state of the property market, the cost of the average home in Cornwall is still more than 12 times the average Cornish salary.

According to new figures released this week, the number of Cornish families waiting for an affordable local home has shot up by 42% in the last five years.

The National Housing Association report shows that the average house in the Duchy is 12.4 times the average income, which is one of the biggest gaps in the UK.

The situation has, of course, been exacerbated by the recession, with fewer new homes being built. But the biggest culprit to me is the huge amount of second homes in Cornwall. Apparently, in some parts of the Duchy, estate agents have been selling five or six times as many properties to second home buyers as to first time buyers.

It is ridiculous that local families cannot afford to get on the housing ladder, and many are forced to move up country. There are clearly enough homes in Cornwall to go around, but just too many of them lie unoccupied for months on end, owned by people living up country.

The problems caused by the growth of the second home market have again been raised this week by West Cornwall and Isles of Scilly MP Andrew George, who has renewed calls for tax curbs to slow the second home market.

Of course, there are two sides to every argument, and you will find many in the business sector who will point out that second homes are vital to the Cornish tourist economy.

They will explain that if tax breaks are abandoned, holiday lets will be sold resulting in fewer tourists coming in.

There is also an argument that many of the rich City types who buy up Cornish houses for their second homes benefit the local economy with the money they spend when they’re down here. I would argue, however, that if they can afford a second home, then they can afford to go without the tax loopholes that exist.

As I say, there are pros and cons behind the number of second homes in Cornwall. The greater of the two evils, however, must be the price that so many local communities pay. Seemingly vibrant in the summer, but ghost towns in the winter, with the closure of local shops and schools this leads to.

Communities must be sustainable and local residents must come first. Clearly there needs to be more of a balance than currently exists.

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