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Language campaigners criticise government’s ‘empty’ statement on second homes crisis

29 Jan 2021 4 minutes Read
Cymdeithas Chair Mabli Siriol. Picture by Cymdeithas yr Iaith

Language campaigners have criticised a Welsh Government’s statement today that they say “does not go far enough” in tackling the second homes crisis.

The Housing Minister, Julie James, announced today that the Government will conduct further research into the issue and is “currently exploring the potential for a statutory registration scheme for all holiday accommodation”.

“We are acutely aware of growing concern in some parts of Wales about the impact of second homes on communities, access to housing and affordability and the impact this has on the Welsh language,” she said.

“Whilst not a pan-Wales issue, it is one that is affecting communities and provokes strong feeling at local or hyper-local levels.

“We have already made a series of short and medium-term improvements to both the council tax and non-domestic rates systems and we have set out our ambitions to explore more fundamental reforms over the longer term. We do not rule out further legislative changes but only with a full understanding of their potential impact.”

‘Lack of action’

Mabli Siriol, chair of Cymdeithas yr Iaith, said that she was glad that the government had finally responded to calls to give Local Authorities the powers needed to control the housing market in Wales.

“Unfortunately, the statement lacks substance and fails to commit to introducing any meaningful and urgent measures to tackle the housing crisis; what we need is for the Government to take action now, rather than conduct further endless discussions,” she said.

“The Government decided to increase Land Transaction Tax on second homes back in Decemeber following campaigning by Cymdeithas yr Iaith and others. We welcomed this at the time, while also expressing our disappointment at the fact that this was only a tiny increase of 1%.

“The Government has shown through its lack of meaningful action that it is unaware of the real scale of the crisis – its decision to release a written statement, rather than an oral statement that Members of the Senedd are able to scrutinise on the floor of the Senedd, further highlights this.

“Thanks to pressure from the people of Wales, the First Minister Mark has already committed to introducing legislation to tackle the housing crisis in the next Senedd term if he remains First Minister after the election. Only by introducing a Property Act can we truly tackle the current crisis and ensure that the housing market works in the interest of communities, not capitalism.

“To this end, we will hold a rally nine days after the election at the site of the Tryweryn dam in order to put pressure on the new government, whichever its composition, to act.”

‘Injustice’

Ieuan Wyn and Howard Huws from pressure group Cylch yr Iaith said that the Welsh Government’s response was “woefully inadequate”.

“The government is not taking the matter seriously,” they said. “It is a disgrace that the government is not taking urgent action to introduce a comprehensive package of measures to tackle the situation of social injustice that excludes local people from the housing market and weakens the Welsh language as a community language.

“Lack of control of second homes and short-term holiday homes has led to the social structure and fabric of many communities being undermined, with the problem spreading to an increasing number of communities.

“The government is misleading the public by arguing that the benefit of tourism to the communities must be considered. This is an unfounded argument, as a local family living in a house year-round contributes more to the local economy than if the house was a second home and had been empty for some time.

“The Town Planning Act should be amended so that planning permission is required from a county council to convert a second or second home into a new house, and that a county council has the right to set a limit on the numbers of second and short-term holiday homes in Wales. individual communities.”

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