Second home squeeze: Tensions bubble in Europe’s holiday hotspots

Second home squeeze: Tensions bubble in Europe's holiday hotspots. St Ives, Cornwall, England.

Second home squeeze: Tensions bubble in Europe's holiday hotspots. St Ives, Cornwall, England. Image: skyearth /

In 2022, a series of vandalism incidents targeted outdoor jacuzzis at holiday rentals and second homes in Gérardmer, France, during a water shortage crisis.

This drew attention to the growing tensions between tourists and local residents.

Similar issues are being faced in other popular holiday spots across Europe, like Cornwall, Wales, Barcelona, and Lisbon, where there’s a surge in second home ownership.

In France, about one in ten properties is a second home, and in some places, like Gérardmer, over 90 per cent of homes fall into this category.

While owning a holiday home used to be a luxury for the rich, it’s become more accessible to a wider group of people, especially in rural areas where prices are lower.

However, the increase in second homes has led to a shortage of housing for locals, especially in areas where there’s already a housing crisis.

To tackle this, French authorities have raised the housing tax on second homes by up to 60 per cent in certain areas.

There are also plans to limit property purchases to permanent residents in places like Brittany and Corsica, due to growing local frustration.

Similar tensions exist in the UK, especially in Cornwall, where graffiti has appeared demanding that second homeowners rent or sell their properties to locals at fair prices.

In St Ives, a rule preventing new builds from being used as second homes hasn’t been very effective, as existing homes are being turned into rentals instead.

Scotland and Wales have taken steps to discourage second home ownership, like removing council tax discounts on second homes and increasing taxes.

But this has led to unintended consequences, such as a decline in the number of Welsh speakers, particularly in rural areas.

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Written by

Anna Ellis

Originally from Derbyshire, Anna has lived in the middle of nowhere on the Costa Blanca for 19 years. She is passionate about her animal family including four dogs and four horses, musicals and cooking.