Anger over lack of affordable homes drove voters to punish Conservatives says Michael Gove
The UK Government’s Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove has said that voters who turned their backs on the Conservatives in the local elections were punishing them for the housing crisis.
He told the Telegraph that the Tories “have a problem” because “the proportion of people living in their own homes has gone down”, whilst the share of those renting has increased.
The Conservatives lost all almost half their councillors in Wales, dropping 86 wards to 111. Wales has seen some of the largest housing price rises in the UK over the past year, by 14.2% to April, with the average house price rising to £214,396.
The Welsh Government has already announced measures to try and take the heat out of the housing market, including an increase to the maximum level of council tax premiums for second homes, as well as new local tax rules for holiday lets.
Michael Gove outlined plans designed to increase the supply of homes in England, which are due to form part of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill in next week’s Queen’s Speech.
He said that measures will include powers for residents to decide on local “design codes”, in a bid to reduce resistance to new homes. Wales has its own powers over housing and planning.
‘Price them out’
In Wales, the Welsh Conservatives have largely opposed the measures brought forward by the Welsh Government as part of their cooperation deal with Plaid Cymru, describing them as a “blunt instrument”.
As part of the changes, the maximum level at which local authorities can set council tax premiums on second homes and long-term empty properties will be increased to 300%, which will be effective from April 2023.
They are also looking at possible changes to land transaction tax (LTT) to allow local authorities to set a higher, additional rate in areas where they think there are too many second homes.
The Senedd debated the issue of second homes last week, with the Welsh Conservatives saying that the Welsh Government’s actions were a “blunt instrument that’ll end up as a hammer blow to the tourism sector instead”.
“And the key reason for that is the Welsh Government has either been unable or unwilling to make a distinction between second homes and self-catering holiday lets,” Senedd Member Tom Giffard said.
“This means that many normal people across Wales who let out flats, houses and cottages to visitors will be completely unable to meet the new threshold and it will price them out completely of ever being able to afford to offer visitor accommodation to people across Wales and internationally.
“And that isn’t a political argument; that’s something that’ll impact real tourism operators here in Wales.”
But Welsh Government Finance Minister Rebecca Evans said that the aim was to ensure that second home owners “make a fair contribution to the communities in which they have homes or run businesses”.
“This in turn is part of our three-pronged approach to addressing the impact that large numbers of second homes and holiday lets can have on communities and the Welsh language,” she said.
“The views conveyed in the consultation, including from the wider tourism sector, clearly support a change to the criteria for self-catering accommodation to be classified as non-domestic.
“Responses indicated that genuine holiday accommodation businesses would be able to satisfy increased letting thresholds and a wide variety of possible alternatives were suggested.
“Increasing the thresholds will provide a clearer demonstration that the properties concerned are being let regularly and are making a substantial contribution to the local economy.”
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