25 October 2012

UK second homes in the EU

A post here a year ago attempted to estimate the number of UK residents who own properties in the EU. This was with a view to assessing the impact of their voting in any “In/Out” referendum on EU membership. The assumption was that property ownership would probably make them more reluctant to leave rather than less. On the basis of the data then available and some assumptions that were little more than guesses, I came up with a figure of 500,000 EU properties and the possibility, at two votes per property, of a million votes being involved.

Now some data from the 2011 census has been made available in an ONS Statistical Bulletin, Number of people with second addresses in local authorities in England and Wales, March 2011. This states that:
820,814 usual residents of England and Wales (1.5 per cent of the usual resident population) had a second address outside of the United Kingdom.
and that such people:
… were concentrated in London and the South East. More detail on the destinations outside of the UK will be published in later census releases.
As soon as the latter data is made available, I will update this post. For the moment my figure for the EU alone, which I didn’t expect to be at all accurate, seems to have been an overestimate.

  • The proportion of the second addresses outside the EU is probably small.
  • My EU estimate, such as it was, was for the UK as a whole including Scotland and Northern Ireland which have about 11% of the UK population. Applied pro rata (but note the bias towards London and the South East) my estimate would come down to about 440, 000 properties for England and Wales (E&W). At two votes per property, this would be equivalent to about 880, 000 “usual residents”.
The relevant 2011 Census questions are shown below:

People who own properties in the sunnier parts of the EU and rent them out, if they can, between June and September, may not stay at those addresses themselves for more than 30 days a year – they could, quite properly, have answered Q5 with a “No” and gone on to Q7.

On the other hand, people in the 820,814 who do stay at an address abroad for more than 30 days a year, may not own it. Their views on EU membership would therefore not be influenced by the considerations that property owners might want to take into account.


The 30 days a year threshold is worth thinking about. Consider the case of someone who is working full-time with 5 weeks paid holiday a year and public (bank) holidays. They wish to spend as much time in their EU property as possible when the weather is good. So assume they fly out on Saturdays and back on the Sundays 15 days later and that they do this twice a year. The first trip might well be at Easter, to take advantage of Good Friday and Easter Monday public holidays. The next could be in mid-summer, say August. In all, they would have spent 32 days (30 nights) in their property and used 18 days of their paid holiday entitlement. They would have 7 days paid holiday left to take at Christmas and New Year (combined with the three seasonal public holidays) and at other times, which might be adequate for some people.  If they had only only 4 weeks paid holiday, they would have only 2 days left.  This doesn’t seem practical so they are unlikely to be in a position to spend 30 days a year abroad.

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