We live in the ‘Venice of England’ but it’s becoming a ghost town as greedy ‘DFLs’ turn our homes into Airbnbs | The Sun

WITH gorgeous views of the quay and rows upon rows of picture-postcard houses, it is no surprise that Bosham has been dubbed England's answer to Venice.

But residents of the scenic West Sussex village have been left infuriated by wealthy Londoners who have purchased second homes – only to leave them unoccupied for years.

It's a problem that has plagued Bosham for years now – in 2021, it was named one of the hotspots for empty houses in the Chichester district.

During the summer and school holidays, hoards of tourists descend on the historical village, likened to The Hamptons, to enjoy sailing and sightseeing – but leave streets of empty accommodations when they depart.

Some fed-up locals point out houses that have barely been used in years, explaining it takes homes away from people who have lived in Bosham all their lives while driving up the property market.

First-time mum and seamstress Sophie Green, 34, on a stroll with her newborn, tells us: "We live in a rented property and there are about 11 houses in our close vicinity that are empty.

"Some of them are used for Airbnb, which is great because there are people enjoying it. A couple of them just sit there empty all the time. There’s such a lack of community. I think it’s a really sad thing.

"I think those owners should be quite ashamed. They are using up an area that could offer people a home and an amazing community and pricing people out of the property market.”

As of January this year, the average house price in the area is £841,000, a rise of 32.8 per cent from the previous year, according to On The Market. 

When The Sun visited on a gloomy day, we saw dozens of homes that appeared unoccupied.

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This is despite Chichester District Council's move to charge a 100 per cent premium on council tax on homes under its control left unoccupied for two or more years.

'Respect the people

Locals here have coined a phrase for second home owners who snap up homes and disappear – DFL, meaning Down From London.

One resident who has lived in Bosham for five years and wished to remain anonymous says second home ownership is problematic when it becomes an "industry".

He says: "They make the place feel dead and these could be spaces for other people to live in.

"There are a lot of people from this area who can’t afford to get houses because it’s being bought and used for Airbnb. It creates a less vibrant community.

"It’s all good when you have tourists there but when they leave, you have big empty homes. You can go to the pub on a Friday and there’d be no one there.”

Retired nurse Karen Hughes, 60, who has lived in the town for 27 years explains that although there are many empty homes in the town, there are still plans to build more homes.

"It’s sad because there are a lot of beautiful properties in the village that aren’t lived in all the time," she says.

"I don’t think it adds to the village. They are trying to build within the village at the moment, which a lot of us are opposed to, and yet we’ve got a lot of homes that aren’t used all the time.

"I’d tell people who are thinking of buying second homes here to use it. If you’re gonna have it, use it. Don’t leave it empty.

"It’s a beautiful village and it should be lived in and loved. People need to respect the village and respect people that live here.”

'Pushed out'

Landscape company owner Andy Probee, 42, has also lived in Bosham his entire life.

He has worked on homes in the village, including some which have now been used as second homes.

He says: "There are people that have grown up here and moved to London to work and their families are up there but they keep that second home and come back during holidays so their kids can partake in the sailing clubs.

"I grew up here and luckily enough I own a house here, but most of my friends who are my age, when they start looking to buy a first-time house, they look at the market and find that they’re being pushed out by cash buyers using them as second homes.

"Unfortunately, It means these guys have had to move out to other villages. But quite rightly they would like to live in the village they grew up in as I have.

"You have a cash buyer from London who can buy outright, whereas my mates have to get loans and mortgages and unfortunately they can’t get into that bidding war.”

Andy's sentiment is shared by Ros Bowen, in her 70s, who inherited her parents' Bosham property after their death and moved into the village in 2013 after selling her London home.

She says: "It is a problem, there's no doubt about it. Although in the summer it is absolutely packed. Another issue is that a lot of local people can't afford property prices.

"It's gone up unbelievably. My parents bought a three-bedroom house in 1974 and the difference now is frightening. You look at other people's children and think they'd never be able to afford it.

"Equally, we don't want masses of smaller affordable houses built because this is an area with a huge problem with sewage."

While many people here complain about the effect of empty second homes, the impact is not felt by everyone.

Minty Bartlett, 32, was born and bred in Bosham and now runs The Anchor Bleu pub, which sits on the town's breathtaking waterfront.

She says: "In the summer they all come down and it’s really really busy but in the winter it’s a bit quieter. And when it’s a sunny weekend, everyone comes down.

"A lot of people that come from London have houses down here but it doesn’t really affect our business too much as we are right on the water so people from Chichester and all around come here."

Meanwhile, a man who wished to remain anonymous says he sees nothing wrong with second homes and would do the same if he could afford it.

"I think they are very lucky to have a second home in this particular area", he explained.

"I'm very envious that you can have a second home in such a beautiful place. I think the locals may find it annoying but these people come in and spend money and I have no problem with that, really.

"If I was a man of financial clout, I'd probably have a second home here. This is one of my favourite places."

'1 in 15 homes empty'

But Chris Bailey, Campaigns Manager at Action on Empty Homes tells us: "The Bosham area has one of the highest levels of second homes in the country.

"In fact across the Chichester council area, there are over 3,200 second homes and another 900 homes are listed as empty. That is 1 in every 15 homes with no one living in it.’

"Bosham is a beautiful area but its second homes lock people in need of housing out.

"Here we are at the start of National Empty Homes Week and it’s sad we need to draw attention to over half a million empty homes in the middle of a severe housing crisis."

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A spokesperson from Chichester District Council says: "While it’s not within our control to prevent people from using a property within the district as a second home, Local Authorities have the ability to vary the amount of council tax discount offered to second homeowners.

"As a council, we don’t offer any council tax discounts for second homes in order to discourage people from owning a second home in our district."

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