Investment in levelling up the less urban regions of the UK will only be truly effective if we curb the number of second homes in our coastal towns.  

Tourism is vital for so many of our coastal and rural economies, but the boom in popularity of staycations, and the rise in platforms such as Airbnb, has created an imbalance that we must address.

In April, holiday rentals website CozyCozy had 10,000 properties available in Cornwall, compared with around 200 on Rightmove to rent as permanent homes.

The rise of second-home ownership is driving up prices and reducing the availability of affordable homes for local people.

The Levelling Up Fund has awarded £3.8bn to 216 projects across the UK. However, creating more opportunities in these areas and making them more desirable could lead to even higher house prices unless affordable home provision is ringfenced alongside it. In holiday destinations such as the South West, reducing second homes is essential to this.

Brighton’s council is planning a second-homes ban in the city this year, while Cornwall Council is in favour of introducing a tax for second-home owners from April 2024. These are examples of the role that devolved power can play in effectively tackling localised issues.

Ultimately, local councils need more authority to manage the issue, and granting more councils the power to raise tax on second homes would help to discourage second-home ownership by making it more lucrative for landlords to prioritise permanent residents.

Potentially, this government’s aim to devolve more power to mayoral unitary authorities could be a vehicle for this much-needed regional autonomy.

Fuelling growth in rural areas is fundamental to addressing the imbalance between the UK’s major cities and the rest of the country, and investment in smaller towns and cities is something we should all welcome. But when it comes to revitalising our forgotten coastal towns – some of which are home to the poorest in society – ensuring there are enough affordable homes is just as crucial as more funding.

Amanda Williams, chief investment officer, Aster Group