Gove considers holiday home curbs in concessions to Tory MPs

UK: The UK Government has moved a step closer to requiring homeowners to apply for planning consent if they want to rent out residential properties as holiday lets, as it prepares to open a consultation period in parliament.

The proposal is part of a set of concessions made by MP Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Minister for Intergovernmental Relations, to around 60 backbench Conservative MPs who are putting pressure on the government to abolish mandatory, new-build local housing targets.

Two weeks ago, a vote was held in the House of Commons on proposals to build up to 300,000 new homes a year in the UK by the “mid-2020s”, although significant Tory backbench opposition led to the matter being dropped. Since then, Gove has written to dissenting MPs claiming that the 300,000 houses figure would be “advisory” instead of a target, ensuring that local councils would have the power to reject applications for new homes if they believed that they would significantly alter the local character of an area or have a damaging effect on communities.

In areas where there is considered to be a shortage of affordable properties available for local people and key workers to buy or rent, restrictions on the use of holiday homes and a potential registration scheme for short-term lets are under consideration as part of the concessions by the Levelling Up department.

One suggestion is that landlords could be obliged to submit a ‘change of use’ planning application to local councils if they wish to convert residential properties for holiday letting purposes. A similar proposal is currently being considered by the Welsh Government to limit the spread of holiday lets in Wales.

As well as the short-term let initiative, Gove is also believed to have put forward concessions including introducing a higher infrastructure levy on Greenfield development, taking steps to prevent ‘land banking’ [buying undeveloped land purely for investment purposes, with no specific plans for its future use], and putting an end to the so-called ‘duty to cooperate’ for rural areas to provide housing for those leaving nearby urban centres.

Dan Wilson Craw, deputy director of the Generation Rent group, tweeted his opposition to plans to enforce planning consent for homeowners looking to convert residential properties into short-term lets.

He wrote: “Planning permission would presumably be retrospective, meaning that the 17,000 holiday lets registered for business rates since 2020 will stay in the tourist sector.

“… Landlords in Cornwall, the Lakes etc can make the same income they get from a tenant in a year in just two months from tourists. That means any property with planning permission for holiday letting will be worth loads more.

” … We need to recognise that the existing laissez-faire treatment of holiday lets would mean most new-builds would continue to be snapped up for tourists.

“…Rather than planning permission we should register landlords, whether they let their property to tourists or tenants – and give councils the power to cap the number of licences available to operate holiday lets. Licences would expire, making residential use the default setting,” he added.

Meanwhile, Labour’s shadow housing secretary Lisa Nandy voiced her criticism of the government’s 300,000 new-build annual housing targets, saying that they were “unconscionable in the middle of a housing crisis”.

Airbnb said that it welcomed the government’s decision to introduce a registration scheme for short-term lets in the UK, calling it “a huge step forward in protecting housing and unlocking the benefits of home sharing for everyday British families and communities across the country”.

Theo Lomas, head of public policy and government relations, Northern Europe, said: “Hosting provides vital income to many families and communities across Britain, which is more important than ever as the cost of living continues to rise. The registration system announced by the government has the potential to ensure that home sharing will continue to unlock critical economic benefits for households, while also empowering local communities with the data and information they need to make informed decisions on housing and tourism.”