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