Advocates say holiday homes bring a level of wealth and spending to an area which otherwise would have less; they claim local people choose to sell to outsiders when they could select locals if they wish; and they believe there is a moral right for people to spend their money as they wish, including on multiple properties.
Opponents cite second homers unloading boxes of London Waitrose shopping as evidence that they don’t inflate the local economy as much as they claim; and with housing supply limited, holiday homes take the stock which otherwise would go to local people, and then drive up the prices of the remaining stock to unaffordable levels.
No matter how passionate the debate, it’s one we’ve all heard before.
But – to use a term which is not meant to be as glib as it sounds – we are where we are.
Second homes exist and there’s every evidence that the new Liz Truss government is going to enshrine both the inequalities and individual freedoms which mean second homes are likely to become more common, not less, in the short term.
So here is an idea.
Why don’t we do as some other countries do and have purpose-built blocks and schemes dedicated to second homes?
At the cheap and cheerful end, that’s what caravan parks are in effect. And there are a few examples at the luxury new build end of the market too – Watermark, a successful development in the Cotswolds is perhaps the most well known, and is extremely well regarded.
The reasoning behind Watermark was that by giving an area designated for holiday homes, pressure from individuals to buy existing houses for use as holiday homes would reduce – lessening the financial impact on the local market.
In some other countries (France and Italy come to mind) this kind of scheme is more commonplace. Of course those countries have the advantage of more space and perhaps a more generous attitude towards those with the affluence to afford a second home.
But whatever the motivation, building a scheme for second homers must surely lessen the downside of holiday properties.
If so, this throws into doubt the measures taken by a small number of local authorities in the UK, which have used a device called Neighbourhood Plans to ban new build homes from being sold to second home buyers.
The most high profile location to have down this is St Ives in Cornwall.
This is quite the reverse of what I believe would be a more useful suggestion – positively encouraging second home purchasers to choose new builds on the outskirts of pretty tourist hotspots, and stopping them from purchasing centrally-located older houses and apartments which are more useful for locals.
The genie may be out of the bottle however.
Vote-seeking councils, powerless to do anything other than impose silly new build restrictions on non-locals, are queuing up to bring in those very Neighbourhood Plans – even though they are largely ineffective at making more homes available to local people.
And try getting people in many NIMBY areas to agree to new builds of any kind, let alone ones designated for holiday homes.
But if the incoming Truss government wants to pioneer a new answer to the old question of whether holiday homes are good or bad, it could at least try this suggestion.
It would be a more constructive approach than the sniping and arguing which characterised the debate before national mourning became a temporary replacement for national moaning.
*Editor of Letting Agent Today and Landlord Today, Graham can be found tweeting about all things property at @PropertyJourn