Census data released on second home ownership

How is second home ownership distributed throughout England and Wales? CLA Property and Business Policy Adviser Avril Roberts pulls out the key figures from the latest census data
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Census data from 2021 has been released, and the Office for National Statistics has published analysis revealing the hotspots where second addresses are used as holiday homes across England and Wales. Perhaps unsurprisingly many of the areas identified as having a high proportion of second homes are in rural areas. The figures below only relate to individuals’ holiday homes, and do not provide overall figures on the number of short-term lets in an area.

Analysing the results

There were around 70,000 holiday homes in England and Wales in 2021, but the census data on people with second addresses only included those who usually reside here, who said they spend at least 30 days a year at the second address. This means that the actual number of holiday homes in the UK is likely to be even higher.

Overall, the South West and Wales had the highest concentration of holiday homes. While the county of Cornwall, with 6,080, had the highest total number. When looking at how many holiday homes there are as a proportion to local housing supply however, South Hams in South Devon and Gwynedd in North Wales claimed the highest proportion.

A correlation could be observed between the presence of a National Park and a higher proportion of holiday homes per 1,000 dwellings. In total, seven areas recorded more than 1 in 10 properties being used as holiday homes, many of which were in coastal areas or near National Parks, including:

  • Trebetherick and Whitecross (139.5 per 1,000 homes) and Padstow and St Issey (120.5 per 1,000) in Cornwall
  • Brancaster, Burnham Market and Docking (130.4 per 1,000 homes) and Hunstanton (103.8 per 1,000) in King's Lynn and West Norfolk
  • Wells and Blakeney (109.1 per 1,000 homes) in North Norfolk.

The Welsh Government have completed their own summary of the census data and have found that 6.9 holiday homes per 1,000 dwellings were recorded in Wales. Wales therefore had a higher proportion of holiday lets than all regions of England, apart from the South West (7.5 holiday homes per 1,000 dwellings). They also found that a high proportion of holiday home users in Wales resided in England, of the 36,370 using a holiday home in Wales, 26,940 of these were from England.

Both UK and Welsh Governments have changed rules regarding ownership of second homes. These mainly focus on tax changes, such as the number of days a property must be available to let before qualifying for business rates rather than council tax. For example:

In England – Properties must be available to let for 140 days, and actually let for 70 days.

In Wales - Properties must be available to let for 252 days, and actually let for 182 days.

Wales in particular has announced several policies to target second homes and holiday lets as a result the negative impact they can have on communities. For instance, local authorities in Wales have the power to charge up to four times the council tax on a second home.

While the lack of available and affordable housing is impacting rural areas, policies to ‘fix’ the problem created by second homes are impacting holiday lets and the vital role tourism plays in the rural economy. The census data offers interesting reading but it must not be looked at in isolation, and government policy should take a view on all impacts on rural supply of housing, not least the lack of delivery of new homes.