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"Rural housing and poverty a real concern" - Farron

March 4, 2008 3:00 PM

Liberal Democrat Countryside spokesman Tim Farron has expressed his concern at the report issued today by the Commission for Rural Communities, which states that almost a million homes in rural areas are officially living in poverty, that is they are surviving on a household income of less than £16,492. Mr Farron is meeting with the Chief Executive of the Commission for Rural Communities to discuss the issues tomorrow afternoon.

The report also details the problem of a lack of affordable housing in rural areas, as many houses have been purchased as second homes, effectively creating ghost-towns. Mr Farron proposes three solutions to the problem excessive second home ownership:

Require second-home buyers to apply for an official change of use through the local authority - which would allow a legal upper limit to be enforced on the number of second homes

Scrap council tax and replace it with a local income tax, and make second home owners pay business rates instead of the local income tax. This would dissuade potential second home owners as well as raising vital funds for investing in affordable housing

Encourage innovative planning solutions, such as banning extensions on second homes to prevent people from pushing house prices further out of the reach of first-time buyers.

Tim Farron said:

"I have been concerned for a long time about the excessive level of second home ownership in rural areas, and have seen first-hand how it can create lifeless ghettos out of formerly vibrant communities.

"We are losing schools, post offices, bus services and other vital services in many of our smaller towns and villages precisely because of this problem, and something needs to be done urgently."