Fighting Holiday and Second Homes

ACORN International Community Organizing Housing

Heerlen       One of the more interesting campaigns that ACORN has engaged in Britain, in the ongoing housing crisis over the shortage of affordable homes and rental units, focuses on the explosion of second homes and holiday homes.  Holiday homes are a pleasant-sounding euphemism for what would be known in the US as Airbnb’s and other short-term rentals.  Certainly, Airbnb and the like have been contentious issues in a number of cities, especially popular tourist areas in the US like San Francisco, New York City, and New Orleans.  The unsettled argument in the war of back-and-forth statistics is whether or not these short-term rentals are reducing rental housing stock and fueling unaffordability.  In many neighborhoods, there seems no doubt.  In England, ACORN is having some success in our campaigns to curtail its expansion.

I learned in Brighton that we had won a moratorium on approval of additional holiday homes and second homes.  Brighton, in the south of England along the coast, is well-known as a English tourism mecca.   In Cornwall, short term rentals have also become a nuisance, driving out other rentals.  In Yorkshire in the north, I read in the local paper there, the Yorkshire Post, that some communities are trying to address the expansion of such homes in their area, known for its grace and beauty in England, by doubling the council taxes for second homes that are not fulltime, permanent residences.  The council tax in the United Kingdom is the equivalent of a city-community collected property tax.  I would assume that would be legal in the United States as well, since city councils and assessors are empowered to adjust the property taxes for sundry reasons whether economic development, neighborhood rehabilitation, or other purposes seen as advancing the public good, even if mostly they are currying favor from special interests.

Earlier in the year, the ACORN board approved a set of demands on short term rentals.  ACORN supports mandatory registration of all entire home holiday rentals and owners onto a national database with the ability for local councils to submit reports; mandatory licensing; requirement of health and safety certificates; caps on such rentals; rescinding licenses where there is a nuisance; increasing council taxes on such rentals; blocking registrations as small business in order to escape residential taxes, which is common; and banning conversion of public housing units into holiday accommodations among other things.

This is a fight with a lot of public support, and one where we’re making progress.  It will be interesting to see how it expands and picks up steam throughout the country.