THERE is a 'critical shortage' of homes to rent or buy on the Isle of Wight, and an increase in people on the housing register post-Covid.

The Isle of Wight Council has acknowledged that the problem could worsen in the coming months, as the changes to the statutory guidance around evictions could result in an increase in the number of households threatened with homelessness.

Neither the council nor Island MP Bob Seely ruled out the possibility of following Cornwall by investigating banning second home owners from buying new-build houses, as a solution to the worsening situation.

The County Press has looked at the current housing problems on the Island, and possible solutions offered, to the crisis.

We asked the Isle of Wight Council what the current situation is.

A spokesperson said: "We are aware there has been an increase in house prices of around 14 per cent and higher in some locations for various pandemic related reasons, with many households choosing to relocate to places like the Island and with Island families moving or seeking to move into larger accommodation with gardens etc.

"There is a critical shortage of homes to rent or buy as demand now far exceeds supply across the Island.

"The government has also changed the tax rules for buy to let landlords and many are choosing to exit the letting market while prices are high or swap to holiday lettings where they can generate more income given the “staycation” boom, which further restricts housing choice and affordability for Island families."

The total number of households registered on Island HomeFinder a year ago, on June 1, 2020, was 2,229. This year, on June 1, 2021, the number has risen to 2,372.

The council said it would continue to work hard to find solutions for any household that approaches them for assistance because they are homeless or threatened with homelessness. People in this situation should contact the council’s Homeless Service for advice and assistance.

We asked if there was any plan to look at restricting who can buy new-builds, such as in St Ives, where people can't buy them unless it is as their main residence.

The council spokesperson said: "The council is currently in the process of reviewing its current planning policies and replacing them with a new Island Planning Strategy.

"It is aware of the approaches taken through neighbourhood plans elsewhere in the country.

"It is intended that the strategy will give the council the tools it needs to manage new development to best meet the needs of Islanders.

"These issues were strongly highlighted in the first public consultation on the strategy, and the next version of the strategy will give a clearer indication of how new planning policies could be used to manage these issues."

Mr Seely said he would welcome measures to make it more difficult to buy new homes as second homes or rental properties.

He said new developments are 'rarely for Islanders' and actively damage quality of life and visitor economy while doing nothing to help Islanders who need a home.

He said: "I am hoping to work with the IW Council on a new plan which will see housing for Islanders in our towns to revitalise them, while protecting greenfields from development that does not benefit Islanders.

"Any new homes built need to be build for Islanders, not to meet Government targets.

"We also need to work more closely with social and affordable housing providers."

Padstow in Cornwall is also set to ban second home owners from buying new-build houses amid fears that incomers are pricing out Cornish locals. The matter will go before Padstow Town Council later this month.

St Ives pioneered a similar move in 2016, but a study conducted in 2019 said the ban may have backfired.

The research, carried out by the London School of Economics, found banning second homes in tourist hotspots could have a detrimental effect on local economies.

Professor Christian Hilber, who led the study, said at the time: "Tourist towns face a fundamental trade-off. They can restrict second home investors, with possibly positive effects on amenities and affordability.

"But this always comes at the cost of a significant adverse effect on the local economy.

"Any policy that succeeds in keeping second home investors away will hurt the local economy, mainly the tourism and construction sectors."

We looked at the facts and figures on Island accommodation.

The proportion of households living in privately rented accommodation on the Isle of Wight was 17.9 per cent in 2019 — the latest available figures. It has risen only slightly from 17.6 per cent in 2012.

Land Registry figures show the Isle of Wight's house prices rose by 8.2 per cent in the first three months of this year alone.

Last month, the Isle of Wight came ninth on a list of fast moving property markets, according to research published by Zoopla.

Office for National Statistics data estimates that 72.2 per cent of households on the Isle of Wight were owners-occupiers in 2019 – the latest available figures. This was broadly in line with 2012.

It also revealed that more homeowners here are living mortgage-free — 45 per cent in 2019, compared to 42.5 per cent seven years before.

What does Shelter have to say about the situation, nationally?

Housing charity Shelter said that for decades, nationally, the number of social homes has been plummeting, forcing people to rent privately, and this would be worse post-pandemic.

Polly Neate, the organisation's chief executive, said: "Home ownership is totally out of reach as most private renters have no savings and no hope of scraping together a deposit.

"The pandemic is making this bad situation worse as many families have seen their incomes drop and debt rise.

"Struggling families need a way out of private renting, and the only way to give them one is to start building more social homes.

"A new generation of good-quality social housing would give many more people the chance of a secure home they can actually afford to live in."

What are some possible solutions?

The Local Government Association (LGA) set out a six-point plan to protect vulnerable households who could lose their homes now the ban on bailiff evictions — introduced during the pandemic — has ended.

The LGA, which represents councils, is calling for a package of measures including:

  • Bringing forward the pledge to end ‘no fault evictions’.
  • Improved protection through the welfare system, including maintaining the £20 per week increase in Universal Credit, and maintaining Local Housing Allowance rates at the lowest third of market rents.
  • A review of the impact of the overall benefits cap in the context of the pandemic.
  • Ensuring councils have enough resources to support households at risk of homelessness.
  • Powers for councils to acquire empty homes, including making it easier to use Compulsory Purchase Order powers.
  • Setting out plans to deliver a step-change in social housing — for 100,000 social homes for rent to be delivered every year.

The LGA pointed out that councils have put in a monumental effort during the pandemic to get 37,000 rough sleepers and homeless people into safe and suitable accommodation, which shows what can be achieved.