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Less research and more urgency needed in tackling housing crisis say language campaigners

09 Jun 2022 5 minute read
Protest against second homes in Llangefni, Anglesey.

There are too many recommendations for further research instead of action in a new Senedd report on second homes, language campaigners have argued.

The Welsh parliament’s Local Government and Housing Committee has been investigating what action the Welsh Government has been taking in response to the crisis.

Their new report published today argues that the Welsh Government should commission further research on the impact tourism has on communities in Wales.

It also recommends that the Welsh Government should commission research on the impact of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic on housing trends to assess the scale of movement from urban to rural and coastal areas.

However, according to Cymdeithas yr Iaith, the recommendations don’t reflect the scale or seriousness of the problem, saying there was a “lack of urgency” in the recommendations. They are calling for a Property Act that would ensure the right to a home locally.

Jeff Smith, Chair of Cymdeithas yr Iaith’s Sustainable Communities Group, said: “Finding a home is a real problem, now, but there is no urgency in the recommendations, just requests for updates on current plans, further investigations and the creation of a new commission, whose role is unclear.

“The report seems to suggest that there will be a full evaluation of the pilot scheme in Dwyfor at the end of the scheme and that measures will only be rolled ut further after that. Why can’t successful measures be put in place widely straight away? Where’s the urgency?

“Research is needed to understand the problem, but further research will not help people to get a home in their community. A Property Act is needed, with measures to ensure the right to a home locally, to empower and invest in communities, and ensures that housing is sustainable – environmentally and economically.”

‘More consistency’

The Senedd Committee report also called on the Welsh Government to use consistent definitions of what ‘second homes’ are when designing policies.

Currently, data collected by the Welsh Revenue Authority can only measure the number of properties that were bought by individuals where the property was not to be used as their own main residence.

But crucially, it cannot differentiate between buy-to-let investments and properties that may be classed as second homes or holiday lets, which means that the true number in each category is impossible to know.

The Committee urged the Welsh Government to work with the Welsh Revenue Authority to ensure that data on second homes and buy to let properties is clearly separated and available at a community level to help inform future policies.

While giving evidence to the Committee, Professor Nick Gallent of University College London, commented that the division between a second home and a holiday home is “quite opaque and difficult to disentangle”.

The issue of second homes has become a contentious one in recent years with many coastal communities calling for more powers to be able to reduce the amount of second homeowners in their areas.

This led to the Welsh Government establishing a pilot area in Dwyfor, Gwynedd, with the Climate Change Minister Julie James keen to look at several approaches to address the issue.

The Committee urged the Welsh Government to keep a close eye on the pilot and recommended that they should provide updates to the Senedd every six months on its progress as well as set out a plan for measuring longer term impacts, including on tourism.

John Griffiths MS, Chair of the Local Government and Housing Committee, said: “The ‘second homes’ question is an emotive issue for communities across Wales but it is important to ensure the sustainability of rural and coastal communities for current and future generations.

“More consistency in defining what a ‘second home’ is, ensuring correct data is collected, and keeping a close eye on the Dwyfor pilot are all priorities. If the Welsh Government listens to our recommendations, they will be in the best possible place for any future action they decide to take.”

‘Not going to be a community left’

Rachel Lewis, from Solva, Pembrokeshire, is concerned about the effect of second homes in her community.

She said, “You grow up and go to university to get a degree and you think that you’ve done ‘the right thing’ and you’ll be able to move back and live around your family – but it’s just not possible. In two years I’ve moved eight times – living in people’s holiday homes, yurts and caravans. I’ve been constantly scrambling, trying to find accommodation.

“Here, the wage isn’t relative at all to the cost of housing, it’s not even close. It’s even hard to find places to rent as it’s all holiday lets or Air BnBs instead of long-term rentals. People come here because they love the coast and the quirky little community, but the irony is, if we continue at the rate we’re going, there’s not going to be a community left.”


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Y Cymro
Y Cymro
5 months ago

Throughout Wales only allow people to sell homes to people where it will be permenant residence.
Ban buy to let
Ban any individual or company owning more than one home.

Kerry Davies
Kerry Davies
5 months ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

What about those builders and business investors who buy up derelict properties, renovate and then let them out at affordable rents through housing associations and councils?
It is a complex area.

Cwm Rhondda
Cwm Rhondda
5 months ago
Reply to  Kerry Davies

I agree it is a complex area. Another category of second home ownership includes those who buy a house to live nearer work in the week and return to their main residence at the weekend. These people contribute to the local economy and are members of the community.

NOT Grayham Jones
NOT Grayham Jones
5 months ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

So what you want is Wales to become basically one big council estate then Cymro. All rentals must be owned and run by the local authorities.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
5 months ago

No Not grayham, I mean no sales to non local people or people who won’t be living permanent in the area.
Example. Let’s assume you live in cardigan. You can only sell your house to someone who lives in cardigan or who intends to move there full time. You would not be allowed to sell to anyone else

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
5 months ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

And any existing buy to letnor holiday homes would have to be acquired by local residents within 5 years.

I.Humphrys
I.Humphrys
5 months ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

I’ll go along with that, until we have Independence. At the same time campaign for mini-homes, which could be used for lets after Independence.

Erisian
Erisian
5 months ago
Reply to  I.Humphrys

Mini homes? Why aren’t we in Wales able to have normal homes. I assume you are an English nat!

Kerry Davies
Kerry Davies
5 months ago

This is such a complex area that what seems a useful idea at first can be the worst thing ever. Today the Westminster Tories are suggesting we ignore the results of discounted council house sales and the pilot projects on Right to Buy of housing association homes and then create mortgages for benefit claimants. I am far from clever but it seems to me that RTB created a massive housing shortage combined with house price inflation and giving mortgages to people with no money smells like the sub-prime issue that nearly bankrupted the entire planet. Action is indeed needed but… Read more »

I.Humphrys
I.Humphrys
5 months ago
Reply to  Kerry Davies

Most council tennants have paid rent for ages. Any cheap buys should be used to fund mini houses.

Last edited 5 months ago by I.Humphrys
Dyncwmrhymni
Dyncwmrhymni
5 months ago

Here we go again. The dithers in the Sennedd have struck again. The people of Wales need affordable housing now. Affordable to buy and affordable to rent. The selling off of social housing under the Right to Buy scheme got us into the housing crisis in the first place. And this lot in Westminster want to resurrect it again? Using housing benefit to fund mortgages? Here in Wales we have the brain child of the Sennedd, Rent Smart Wales. What a fiasco this Rent Smart Wales has turned out to be. Fifty percent of the private landlords have sold up… Read more »

hdavies15
hdavies15
5 months ago

The report states …. “But crucially, it cannot differentiate between buy-to-let investments and properties that may be classed as second homes or holiday lets, which means that the true number in each category is impossible to know.” They should know because RentSmart has operated since 2016 and has by now got up to date info on all landlords, private and corporate. So there should be a fairly accurate number for tenant occupied homes in each local authority. Council Tax data should pick up whether houses are owner occupied, second homes or holiday lets whether or not tax is actually paid. Put the… Read more »

Last edited 5 months ago by hdavies15
Llyn expat
Llyn expat
5 months ago

The holiday homes tax will not help local people in Dwyfor or elsewhere buy homes. This is because (1) outside a very few wards (basically just Abersoch and Aberdaron), there aren’t actually that many of them compared to homes occupied year-round as main residences, and (2) those houses which are sold as a result of this policy are likely to be bought by retirees from outside the area (though not necessarily outside Wales). The only way to make sure young people in these communities have affordable homes is to build more of them. Relax planning regs – even in the… Read more »

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