First-time buyer aid cash: SW England gets biggest share

St Ives, in Cornwall

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Cornwall is popular with people buying second homes

The South-West has been awarded the largest share of a fund raised through extra stamp duty on second homes to help first-time buyers in England.

The area, which accounts for 21% of all second-home ownership in England, is to get £19.1m of the £60m annual fund.

The money will be distributed to “community-led” groups to encourage the building of affordable housing.

Labour’s John Healey said last year saw the lowest level of new affordable homes built since 1991.

The government says second-home ownership is at an all-time high and is crowding out first-time buyers by artificially raising prices.

‘Big problem’

It reports that there were 340,000 second homes in England in 2013/14 – a rise of 98,000 in five years.

In March the then chancellor, George Osborne, announced that £60m raised by an additional 3% on stamp duty on second homes would be spent on “community-led housing developments in coastal and rural communities”.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said the £60m fund had since been broadened out to include areas with high levels of second homes or where the affordability gap was a particular problem.

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It announced that the South West is set to get £19,125,110. This will be split between 25 local authorities in Devon, Cornwall, Gloucestershire, Bristol, Wiltshire, Somerset, Dorset and the Isles of Scilly.

The South East – outside London – will receive the second highest amount, £11,336,157. The East of England will get £8.9m, Yorkshire and Humberside £6.4m and the North-West nearly £6m.

Friday’s breakdown also includes £2.3m for London, as well as shares for the East Midlands (£2.7m). West Midlands (£1.9m) and north-east England (£1.3m).

In all, 150 councils will share the money over five years, to be distributed to community-led housing groups to spend on building and the development of house-building skills..

Cornelius Olivier, a Labour councillor in Cornwall, told BBC Radio 5live: “We have a big problem in Cornwall in that the gap between what people can earn and what housing costs is bigger than almost anywhere else in the country and one of the main reasons is because we have over 10,000 second homes in Cornwall.”

Housing Minister Gavin Barwell said: “The high number of second homes can be a frustration for many who struggle to find an affordable home in their community.

“This new fund will help tackle that by boosting supply and making sure community groups are at the heart of delivering new homes, so that this is a country that works for everyone.”

During the first year of the scheme, funding will focus on improving skills and reviewing housing needs in different areas.

It “must then be used to deliver housing on the ground for local people” during the second year.

But Labour’s Mr Healey said: “Another day, another announcement but still the lowest level of new affordable homes built last year since 1991.

“After six years of failure on housing, people want to see government ministers get to grips with the country’s housing crisis not produce more press releases.”

Councillor Martin Tett, for the Local Government Association,

LGA housing spokesman, said there must be a “renaissance in house building by councils” to provide enough affordable homes to rent and buy: “This means powers and funding [being] given to councils to replace sold homes and reinvest in building more of the genuinely affordable homes our communities desperately need.”

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