If agreed by the full council during the meeting in November, the new scheme will mean that North Yorkshire is one of the first areas in the country to progress adopting the government’s new measures, which are ultimately aimed at bringing second homes back into use for local communities.
It is also expected that a decision to introduce the premium will provide a multi-million pound boost to finance key council priorities, including a central aim to use the funding to help introduce more housing in areas particularly affected by the affordability crisis.
Council leader Carl Les says decisive and radical action had to be taken to tackle the long-running issue of second home ownership in the county.
North Yorkshire has the highest number of second homes in the region, and concerns have been voiced that the trend is undermining the availability of housing for local communities as well as inflating property prices.
The independent North Yorkshire Rural Commission, which was established by the county council in the autumn of 2019 to look into issues affecting countryside communities, highlighted the affordable housing crisis as among the greatest challenges to resolve.
Councillor Les adds: “There is no simple solution to the issue of affordable housing, second homes and the impact they have on housing for local communities. But we recognise that bold and decisive action needs to be taken to deal with the affordable housing crisis in North Yorkshire, and that is why the executive has decided to pursue the policy of a council tax premium.
“It may not be popular with everyone, but that is not the key factor in this decision. We need to act to try and ensure more local people have access to housing in their own communities, and the premium on council tax bills for second homes will be a significant step towards achieving that.
“Second homes and the impact they can have on the availability of housing has been a long-running problem that has affected communities not just in North Yorkshire but across the country, and this was reinforced by the findings of the independent North Yorkshire Rural Commission.”
Analysis has shown that the introduction of a 100 per cent premium on council tax bills for second homes in North Yorkshire could generate in excess of £14m a year in additional revenue.
The premium is being considered under an over-arching policy for council tax premiums and discounts which is being introduced when a new local authority spanning the whole of North Yorkshire is launched on April 1 next year.
Executive member for finance, Gareth Dadd, adds: “We know that there is an acute shortage of housing for local people in many communities in North Yorkshire, and this has been an issue that has long affected their opportunities to actually buy their own home.
“Places such as the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors as well as coastal towns such as Scarborough and Whitby are without question wonderful places to live. But with that comes the fact that these areas also see very high numbers of second homes, which affects the availability of housing for local people.
“The scheme to introduce the council tax premium will ideally see these second homes brought back into use for local people. But if not, then there will be a valuable new revenue stream created that will help fund council priorities, such as helping introduce more housing for local communities.”
A lack of affordable housing across North Yorkshire has been a long-running issue, accentuated in many of the county’s rural and coastal locations that are among the most desirable places to live in the country. House prices in the Yorkshire Dales, for instance, are about a third higher than the county’s average. The average cost of a property in the Dales is nearly £400,000, while the weekly wage in North Yorkshire is just over £530.
There is a high demand for second homes, increasing the strain on an already limited housing stock. According to the National Housing Federation, there are 8,199 second homes in North Yorkshire - the highest number in the Yorkshire and Humber region.