Second owners harm local communities and the planet

IIt’s harder for a wealthy vacation home owner than a camel to get through the eye of the zero carbon needle.

In a recent speech to parliament, Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron equated the impact of the boom in second home ownership in Cumbria with the Scottish land clearings of the 19th century, when the aristocracy swept farmers off their land ancestral and replaced them with sheep. He said entire towns and villages in his constituency were becoming secondary ghost towns.

Farron’s speech highlights the plethora of destructive impacts of secondary property on communities, youth, nature and climate destruction.

It wasn’t until regional airline Flybe went bankrupt and I read an interview with a “victim” in London, complaining that she could no longer fly every weekend to her house. vacationing in Cornwall I understood that second home owners were a major source of UK aviation emissions.

This was reinforced when I recently did a joint BBC Radio interview with a famous businessman on the pros and cons of a frequent flyer tax, which would impose an increasing tax on those who take multiple flights each. year.

As I got lyrical about the peace and quiet the Heathrow Airport lockdown break brought to my back garden last summer, the businessman said I should instead focus on Chinese carbon emissions rather than frequent UK travelers.

So I asked him how often he flew and he admitted to flying at least 15 times a year to his vacation home in Spain.

An estimated 500,000 Britons have a second home abroad in Europe. Let’s say it’s an average family of four and they fly six times a year to their second home. This would equate to 24 million high carbon international flights each year!

The return flight of a family of four to Turkey would emit around four tonnes of CO2. Six trips per year would emit 24 tonnes. That’s the equivalent of 30 years of carbon emissions from electricity for an average UK household. Then there are the emissions of those who fly or drive to second homes in the UK itself.

Research by AIG has found that the super-rich in the United States have as many as nine foreign vacation homes spread around the world. Flights between them will often be by private jet. These can emit around 2 tonnes of CO2 per hour in flight.

Then there are the carbon emissions embedded in the buildings themselves. Emissions from building an average house in the UK are estimated to be around 65 tonnes. Having a second home can thus double homeownership emissions per family, depending on its size, to 130 tonnes.

Then there is the duplication of household furnishings and other goods, including lawn mowers, washing machines, ovens, dishes, etc. Wood, steel, glass, concrete, sand and the precious metals for these will all lead to additional carbon emissions and exacerbate the negative impacts of mining, deforestation and the destruction of our few habitats. remaining wildlife.

In addition to the climate impacts, owning a second home has damaging social consequences, not only on the community where their second home is located, but also in their home community. If you spend four days a week working from your home in town and the rest in your vacation home, you end up hurting both communities.

From Cornwall to Wales, from Norfolk to Cumbria, local communities are being destroyed by secondary ownership. It is artificially pushing real estate mortgages to skyrocket above what the wages of the local working class can afford and is ejecting local youth.

Up to 10 percent of homes in some rural parts of Wales are now holiday homes and there are around 13,000 second homes in Cornwall. There is a particular problem with the influx of non-Welsh second home owners into rural Welsh speaking areas, endangering the language.

Pouring salt on the wounds of local communities, George Monbiot recently reported that instead of punitive taxation of second homes to protect local communities, the government is in fact fueling their destruction. Second homeowners benefit from a range of tax exemptions, including writing off mortgages as a vacation rental business expense and often avoiding municipal taxes altogether.

So what should be done? Our climate, our nature and our rural communities simply cannot afford this destructiveness. A sliding scale of punitive taxes should be imposed on each additional flight made in a year, or better yet, a flight emissions rationing system should be in place.

All tax exemptions for second home ownership, including Airbnb, should be removed and replaced with a community tax at least three times the local rate. And finally, as Tim Farron rightly asks, instead of the government enacting the current proposed abolition of most of our planning protections, it must create a new category of planning for second homes and rental properties. holidays.

Homeowners should apply for a building permit to have a second home in the community or to rent it out as a vacation home. The local community would then be able to protect their identities and their often secular cultures.

It is time to put an end to the climatic, ecological and social destruction by the elite of the second home owner classes.

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