Under-used holiday homes in the South West should be compulsorily purchased by councils in areas with an acute shortage of properties, a leading union has urged.
The GMB made the call after research showed more than 170,000 people own a holiday home in the UK, with the highest numbers in the South West and Wales.
The union said local authorities should be given powers to levy taxes on under-used holiday houses, or even buy them, pointing out that a house which is only used for a few weeks a year is very different to one which is occupied most of the time. More than 40,000 people have a holiday home in the South West, with almost 32,000 living outside the region, said the study.
More than 10,000 people from outside Cornwall own a home in the county, while the figure for Gwynedd in North Wales was 7,700 and almost 5,000 in north Norfolk.
Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB, said: “In many areas urgent action is needed to ascertain if properties used as holiday homes are actually in use at all. A holiday home that is only used for a few weeks a year is very different to a holiday home that is occupied for most of the year in terms of its economic benefits to any locality.
“In areas with acute housing need, questions should be raised in the council chamber as to whether under-used houses should be subject to compulsory purchase.”
A spokesman for the Communities and Local Government Department said: “New legislation has given councils the flexibility to remove council tax relief on second homes and empty homes, and use the money to keep overall council tax bills down.”