High house prices are not the fault of the second homers
I must take issue with Simon Parker over certain aspects of his article (WMN June 23) about second home owners.
I'm tired of hearing how they are to blame for the demise of rural communities and the inflation of house prices in those areas.
Saying that the actions of a rich few have "directly contributed to the tripling of house prices in Cornwall since 1990" is clearly wrong. All property in all parts of the UK has more than tripled in price since 1990. In London it is more like four times. Since 1990, Greater London has seen an increase in property prices of some 220 per cent, while the South West (for decades, always a close second behind London) has seen a rise of some 178 percent. In Northern Ireland, it is 265 per cent. If you look back to 1974, you will find that the ratio is similar – an increase of 2161 percent in Greater London, and 1738 percent in the South West. No matter how rich, I don't think anyone sets out to pay more than they need to for a house. It's just a fact of life that some people are in a better financial position than others to pay the asking price or above.
Why not shoulder some of the blame on estate agents who set the price, often based on an uplift on what they previously achieved for a similar property nearby, and the banks who offered 125 per cent mortgages for amounts six times applicants income?
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There is a net gain from migration in the South West, as more retired people look to buy homes in the area, while a smaller number of locals leave the area to find better paid work or pursue a career move. This net gain will always put pressure on property prices in the south west – it's the downside of living in one of the more pleasant parts of the country – everyone else wants to live here as well.
As for Cornwall itself, it has always been poor – hundreds of thousands emigrated in the 18th and 19th centuries, looking for a better life due to lack of jobs in the county.
Nothing much has changed in that respect, it would seem, however, there has in the last ten or so years, been a population growth of 6.8 per cent in Cornwall, and a steady rise since the 1960s. Would Simon Parker not concede that it is more likely to be these factors that have mainly contributed to the situation he describes? While obviously contributing to the problem to a small extent, 14,000 second homes – some six per cent out of a total of 220,000 houses in the county does not in my view account for why the rest of them are unaffordable.
It seems to me that many locals were not that interested in village properties during the 1990s, even when houses were more affordable. A two bedroom terrace house was on average £35-40,000 in the mid 1990s – the price of a luxury car. Anyone earning around £10,000 per year could have been in a position to buy. However, fifteen or twenty years and a housing price boom later, and suddenly it's all the fault of the second home owners. I don't think so.