How many dwellings in Whitby are second/holiday homes (2021 Census edition)?

Whitby : Housing

Whitby Community Network has previously quoted ONS estimated figures from the 2011 Census that there were 19.9% of dwellings with no usual resident (i.e subject to council tax). On top of that we would need to add how many business-rated properties present (and small business rates relief has been introduced since 2011, so we expect this part of the market has grown significantly from 2011 to 2021) to get a representative number for the amount of second/holiday homes. The market in the last 7 or 8 years has been to a very large degree driven by this sector of the market and so, with the 2021 Census numbers gradually being released, we really would like to see an up-to-date number to provide context to fully appreciate the devastation being caused to this town.

The 2021 Census figures (released March 2023) show that 1735 of the 7950 dwellings (i.e subject to council tax) in the town/parish of Whitby have no usual resident. Thus we have 21.8% of those are either second homes or temporarily vacant; given the high demand and soaring prices for homes in this area the majority of these are undoubtedly second homes.

As said, the 2021 Census figures only include dwellings that are eligible for council tax. In addition, the Valuation Office Agency provides additional data to attempt to identify those being run as holiday let businesses. We then look for category code 131 in YO21/YO22/TS13 on the VOA list and pick out those for the Whitby parish. Most appear to be registered as single business premises but some were described as holiday cottages or apartments (i.e plural) so we count them as 2 (or more, if the actual number was specified). Consequently there are some ~1476 properties in Whitby which are classed as self-catering holiday accomodation, eligible to pay business rates.

We then add the 1476 to 1735, resulting in 3211 of 9426 (34.1%) domestic residential properties in Whitby town/parish which have no usual resident.

If they were subject to registration, AirBnB lettings of rooms within council-tax rated dwellings would be in addition to this figure.

Any Council Action?

So here we are nearly 1 year on to the day from the parish poll which called for a primary residence clause on all new build homes, and councils have not made any actual change, just a lot of talk about window dressing

  • North Yorkshire Council (NYC) want to impose 200% council tax on second homes. Faced with paying this, the majority of the second homes (many of the 1735 currently with no usual resident) will simply switch to being a business holiday let, and avoid the charge. Besides, the NYC plan has no clause to retain the monies for the part of the county where the tax was levied.
  • Michael Gove’s UK Government department has had recent consultations about class use changes to attempt to capture holiday let numbers and to require planning permission for change of use to become a holiday let, meaning that local authorities can then put a limit on the overall numbers in an area. This also, even if NYC decided to put a limit in an area, would only serve to not allow the percentage of holiday lets to go above that number. It would do nothing to gradually lower the percentage to the widely accepted cut off of 20% to maintain social cohesion in a town. One thing it could achieve is the end goal of preventing the continual reduction in long term rentals.

In the meantime, hospitality in Whitby is facing many closures due to lack of staff, with multiple cafes / restaurants around town centre closing, with some applying for planning to convert to holiday lets also. Other establishments have simply cut back working hours, or what they offer since they cannot find sufficient staff. Shop closures continue also, and the average Whitby resident simply goes in to town centre very little now, with societal cohesion at an all time low. Residents have left due to lack of long term lets, or inability to afford to buy houses. The continual pressure to convert more properties to second / holiday homes removes many dwellings from the long term rental market also, meaning renting is very difficult. If younger people cannot afford to live here then they will leave, and with them go their children who would have worked in the hospitality sector. Consequently there is an urgent requirement for housing of the right type. Simply building more (the MPs advice!), and allowing more to be converted to holiday lets will only exacerbate the over capacity of tourist accomodation and under capacity of hospitality.

The question then goes back to when NYC will (ever) provide a primary residence clause on new build accomodation in this parish; they currently do not employ adequate numbers of planning enforcement officers to implement it for the estates that do have it, apparently. The Neighbourhood Plan (being pursued by Whitby Town Council), which will take at least 2 years to develop, is currently the only thing being mooted that could impact on this, and even then, a Neighbourhood Plan is advisory.

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