THE New Forest is the second home capital of Hampshire, new figures show.
For the first time, a study has revealed where people with a second address are concentrated.
The Office for National Statistics found there were more than 7,000 people living in the New Forest whose main address is elsewhere in the country.
Council bosses are considering scaling back council tax discounts for second home-owners in order to balance the books – but the Tory leader said he did not want to “hammer” people lucky enough to own one.
Southampton had just under 5,000 “second addresses”, and there were around 5,500 in Winchester.
Cornwall was the local authority with the most second homes, with 22,997 people saying they had a second address there. However, in terms of the ratio of homes that are second addresses, it was similar to New Forest.
Barry Rickman, the leader of New Forest District Council, said he was not surprised his area had come out top locally.
He said: “Obviously in a place as nice as the New Forest, you are going to have large numbers of people with second homes of one sort or another. I would expect that. What we don’t want, in the New Forest, are empty homes.”
It comes as New Forest council bosses consider using new powers to scrap council tax discounts. Local authorities are facing cuts to their budgets as the funds for managing council tax benefit are reduced.
Many are targeting the 50 per cent discount given for second homes as they attempt to plug the gap.
Asked about new powers to end council tax discounts for second homes, Cllr Rickman said: “We are looking at that within the budget structures at the moment. We need to work out what the options mean in revenue terms.”
He added: “Personally, just because someone’s lucky enough to own a second home, it’s not necessarily a reason for another local authority to go and hammer them. In many respects, I would say ‘good for them’.”
The issue of second homes is a controversial one in parts of the south where a shortage of affordable housing makes it impossible for locals to buy.
Cllr Rickman added: “You will never have enough affordable homes, as long as people think they have a right to one without doing anything to get  it.”