Hundreds turn out at Tryweryn rally to call for action on high house prices and second homes
Hundreds turned out to a rally at the Tryweryn dam today to call on the Welsh Government to take action on high house prices and second homes.
The protestors formed a line along the 600-metre long dam near Bala, on the shores on the artificial lake created by drowning the Welsh-speaking village of Capel Celyn.
Those attending the rally were addressed by the founder of Llety Arall, Menna Machreth, the musician Dafydd Iwan, Mabon ap Gwynfor MS and the former Labour candidate for the Dwyfor-Meirionnydd constituency, Cian Ireland.
— Nid yw Cymru ar Werth / Wales is Not 4 Sale (@IndiSoundSystem) July 10, 2021
The rally follows the Welsh Government’s announcement this week that it will consult and develop a pilot in order to tackle the effects of high house prices on communities and the Welsh language.
The proposals were branded by language campaigners Cymdeithas yr Iaith as “vague and uninspiring” and “the latest example of the Government remaining complacent while there is a crisis in the housing market across Wales”.
It was revealed this week that almost half of all homes sold in Dwyfor Meirionnydd during 2020/21 were to be used as a second home.
On Monday the Welsh Government unveiled its plan to tackle the second homes crisis, which is blamed for driving up prices and making communities in many rural areas unaffordable.
It will include setting up a pilot area in Wales – to be decided over the summer – where new measures will be trialled before a wider rollout.
The Welsh Government’s three-pronged approach will focus on:
- Support addressing the affordability and availability of housing;
- The introduction of a statutory registration scheme for holiday accommodation;
- Using national and local taxation systems to ensure second home owners make a fair and effective contribution to the communities in which they buy.
However, the plan was slammed as “weak” by Plaid Cymru who said it was “an exercise in kicking the problem into the long grass”.
Plaid Cymru Housing Spokesperson Mabon ap Gwynfor MS however said he was unimpressed.
“This so-called ‘ambitious approach’ to tackle the second homes housing crisis is an exercise in kicking the problem into the long grass without taking the necessary urgent action to deal with the crisis facing our communities,” he said.
“These weak measures will not be nearly enough to truly get to grips with a housing emergency that is fast engulfing our communities at an alarming rate. There is nothing here about closing the council tax loophole. There is nothing here about imposing caps on second homes.
But Minister Julie James said that the continuing rise of house prices meant that people, especially younger generations, could no longer afford to live in the communities they had grown up in.
“A high concentration of second homes or holiday lets can have a very detrimental impact on small communities, and in some areas could compromise the Welsh language being spoken at a community level,” she said.
“We have already taken strides on some of these issues – last year we became the only nation in the UK to give local authorities the power to introduce a 100% council tax levy on second homes.
“But the urgency and gravity of this situation calls for further intervention, which means real and ambitious actions are delivered at pace, to inject fairness back into the housing system.
“Taking recommendations from Dr [Simon] Brooks’ report, our new three-pronged approach will kick-start a summer of action which will determine how we tackle this issue now and into the future.
“I am calling on all political parties across the Senedd to get involved in this, as we look to empower our communities to exercise their right to live in good quality homes, wherever they are in Wales.”
Speaking ahead of today’s rally, Mabli Siriol Jones, national Chair of Cymdeithas yr Iaith, said that while the problems caused by the housing market manifested themselves differently in different areas, the result was the same:.
“Young people are unable to find homes in their own communities,” she said. “The people present at the Tryweryn Rally will be calling on the Welsh Government to take serious action for social justice and to secure the survival of Welsh as a community language.
“We don’t need more pilots, consultations and statements without substance from the Welsh Government. What we need is action.
“As urgent steps, we’re calling for the introduction of a tax on tourism, on landlords’ profits and on second houses, and for the money raised to be invested in bringing empty and second houses back into community use. We are also calling for a Property Act to be introduced that will ensure community control over the housing market and the planning process, for a change in the definition of affordable homes, for controls to be introduced on house and rent prices, and for a cap to be introduced on the number of holiday houses in any given community.
“We already have the answers, what we now need is political will. This is an opportunity for the Government to listen and ensure a home for everyone, as well as strong, Welsh-speaking communities in all parts of the country”.