A council tax premium on second homes should be used to fund social housing projects, Totnes district councillor, John Birch, has said.

From April 1, 2025, the owners of properties which are not the main residence and considered empty will face a 100 per cent charge on their annual council tax bill.

South Hams District Council (SHDC) took the decision after announcing a housing crisis in 2021 due to rising house prices and potential first-time buyers being edged out of the market.

The tax premium will provide additional funding for local councils. The money will be collected by SHDC, which will only retain eight per cent, while the rest will be distributed mostly to Devon County Council, as well as the fire services, police, and town and parish councils.

Cllr Birch said the effect of increasing the tax base will equate to raising an extra £15,000 in Totnes alone (comparable to having an additional 70 Band D or equivalent properties).

He said SHDC was in favour of ring-fencing the extra funding for social housing, and quoted a SHDC report, saying that the cash raised could be used to acquire existing properties to provide temporary accommodation.

Speaking at this week’s council meeting in Totnes, Cllr Birch echoed SHDC’s view and said he hoped there would be a “partnership agreement of some sort” with the recipients of the council tax premium.

There are about 4,022 second homes in the South Hams – 70 in Totnes - according to the chief finance officer at SHDC.