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Farmers’ union calls for action on second homes as young people ‘forced to leave their communities’

16 Oct 2021 4 minutes Read
Picture by Phil Dolby (CC BY 2.0)

A farmers’ union has called for action on second homes, saying that they and holiday lets are forcing young people to leave rural communities.

Dewi Owen of the Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) said that the Welsh Government had “a duty and moral responsibility” to protect rural communities from the “devastation” caused.

The Diversification Committee chair said that the union’s delegates from across Wales had raised concerns about the impact of second home ownership on the “affordability and availability of homes for local people, and how this is threatening our rural communities”.

“The massive rise in second home ownership and houses purchased by outside investors as AirBnB type accommodation since the beginning of the pandemic has added to existing problems, and is leading to young people having to leave their communities,” he said.

“As a committee concerned with farm diversification, we of course recognise the importance of tourism and self catering accommodation to our economy, but many of our coastal and rural villages are seeing their communities devastated, with serious implications for our heritage and culture.”

‘Unfairly target’

Gwynedd County Council, of which Dewi Owen is an elected member, has said that 60% of residents are currently priced out of the housing market in the county, he said.

Around 11% of the county’s entire stock is being used as second homes. However, the problem is one that impacts areas across Wales and is continuing to grow, he added.

In considering the Welsh Government’s consultation, the Diversification Committee highlighted a number of moves that the Welsh Government and other authorities should take to stem the impact.

“We need loopholes to be closed that currently allow second home owners to avoid paying the council tax premium many local authorities are now implementing by registering their properties as short-term holiday lets and claiming non-domestic business rate,” Dewi Owen said.

Mr Owen added this needs to be monitored and policed properly, and that there are currently large numbers of second home owners artificially claiming Small Business Rates Relief as non-domestic holiday lets, meaning local people are picking up the lion’s share of the costs in their local communities through their council tax.

“We also need to raise the thresholds that allow such houses to qualify as business properties – local people who have diversified into self catering accommodation are genuine businesses which make that accomodation available for most of the year, not just for a part of it.

“Yet under the current rules accommodation must only be available to let for around a third of the year to be eligible for rate relief.

“Raising this threshold would avoid blanket changes to business rates which would unfairly target farms and others which had diversified into genuine self catering type enterprises.”

‘Too late’

The committee also proposed changes to the planning rules which would require change of use permission in order to change a domestic property into a second home or a holiday let, and a quota for local communities that ensures a fixed percentage of houses within a community are available for local housing needs.

“The Welsh Government has a mountain to climb in order to tackle this problem, and we acknowledge that it is not straightforward,” Dewi Owen said.

“But they have a duty and moral responsibility to protect our communities from the long term devastation these issues are causing.

“For some of our communities it may already be too late, but robust action needs to be taken urgently, including granting additional powers to local authorities to deal with such matters, before this becomes an even worse problem in the majority of our rural communities.”

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SundanceKid
SundanceKid
1 month ago

60% priced out of their own communities?!!

How on earth is this situation sustainable??

Why is Welsh Government content to allow young people be priced out of their communities and allow the destruction of swathes of Welsh communities the length and breadth of the country??

What is going on here that makes them content to stand back and watch???

Ex Plaid member
Ex Plaid member
1 month ago

For more than 40 years councils across Wales been pasive in deciding it is OK for young people to feel they are forced to leave rural areas. Poor education, poor infrastructure (like broadband, bus service, etc). This is just the next step where councilers with a background that does not equip them to look beyond the current vote, cast that vote with a short term view and do what they are told to keep the status quo. We(or our parents) voted them in or let them in by default. We are to blame. Its probably too late now, even though… Read more »

Grayham Jones
1 month ago

Stop all second homes 🏠 in wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 take all second homes of incomers and give them to young welsh people who can’t get on the housing market because of incomers it’s time for a new wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 start fighting for your children and grandchildren future in wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 kick all English party’s out of wales that’s the Tories Labour and all Brexit party’s it’s time for a new wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
1 month ago

Is this the same farming union that supports the tories in everything they say and do?

If they really are serious about second home ownership perhaps they should reconsider which political party they jump into bed with.

Rhosddu
Rhosddu
1 month ago
Reply to  Barry Pandy

Irrespective of whichever party farmers vote for, this is still a matter for the current Welsh Government to deal with, and they need to get on with it as a matter of urgency. But, you’re right in that if the farming vote were ever to help the Welsh Tories win a Senedd election, you can wave goodbye to any hopes of ending the holiday home problem. Hopefully, the increasing anger over the rural Welsh housing crisis will eventually push Drakeford into effective action long before the Senedd ever gets captured by the Conservative Party’s Welsh branch.

David Thomas
David Thomas
1 month ago
Reply to  Barry Pandy

Housing is a devolved issue, power for change lies with the Labour government in Cardiff.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

This is why the new Premier Inn being built in Porthmadog is so welcome…

Whether or not it will produce the same revenue as a dozen second homes would for Gwynedd Council’s coffers is another matter !

Back in the day of guesthouse landladies we did not have this problem…

Huw Davies
Huw Davies
1 month ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Tut tut, MM. Surely you’re not suggesting the Council’s main concern is to generate more income for ‘The Council’? We all know ‘The Council’ is only there to serve the interests of the local community and would not sell it’s soul to encourage second home ownership, just for the sake of extra taxes. You’ll be telling us Sion Corn is a myth next!

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago
Reply to  Huw Davies

Way above my pay grade, but now you mention it both rural schools and second homes need an independent inquiry to my mind…I’m getting used to being in the dog house on here…mind you second homes just had one I think…I’m going to change my handle to Partial Recall…off to show some guests a passage grave next…

Dawn
Dawn
1 month ago

It’s not just homebuyers this is affecting either. I know of six different families that have been evicted from private rentals this summer so that the landlord can rent on airbnb instead. They also need protection.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago
Reply to  Dawn

A friend told me of a son evicting his 90 year old parents, hearsay I know but…

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Sorry it came from the horses mouth, I just checked my sources!

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