‘Out of control’: Five steps Plaid Cymru argue will tackle the second homes ‘crisis’

Abersoch, which is popular with second home owners. Picture by Ken Doerr (CC BY 2.0)

Plaid Cymru have unveiled five steps they say will tackle a second homes “crisis” in Wales which has “spiralled out of control”.

They say that countries across the world, from New Zealand to Denmark, had taken steps to tackle communities being hollowed out by second homes and that the Welsh Government should do the same.

The matter will be debated in the Senedd this afternoon as the party seeks to put pressure on the Welsh Government to “protect communities and first-time buyers against the economic oppression of runaway second home purchases”.

The proposed measures include:

  1. Changing planning laws to allow councils to impose a cap on the number of second homes, refuse permission for changing a dwelling from being from a primary to a secondary residence and disallow new properties from being purchased in areas where second homes make up to 20% of the local market
  2. Allowing council to charge council tax premiums of up to 200% on second homes and having the Welsh Government bring forward regulations to treble the LTT (Land Transaction Tax) charge on the purchase of second properties.
  3. Closing the loophole that allows second home owners to register their property as “businesses” in order to avoid paying the council tax premium.
  4. Bringing in a licencing scheme for renting properties through companies such as AirBnB to control the amount of properties that can be used as a cash cow in popular holiday destinations where house prices are high.
  5. Giving councils the power to build houses with a local conditions on them, make it easier to bring empty properties back into use and redefine the term ‘affordable home’ (which currently includes properties worth over £250,000).

 

‘Empower communities’

Speaking about the publication of the report and ahead of the Senedd debate, Plaid Cymru’s shadow housing minister Delyth Jewell MS said a third of homes sold in Gwynedd and Ynys Môn in the last financial year being purchased as second properties.

“People all over Wales have heard the cry of pain coming from the north west over the past few months, as the already unsustainable holiday homes situation spirals further out of control.

“12% of Gwynedd’s housing stock consists of second homes owned by people outside the county, this is among the highest in Europe and the subsequent price inflation in a low-wage area means that people are simply unable to buy a home within their own community.

“The series of measures proposed by Plaid Cymru today are designed to bring the situation under control and empower communities through targeted, proportional interventions and I hope the Welsh Government will consider them seriously.

“Countries all over the world have taken action in the face of similar circumstances, for example New Zealand and Denmark have simply banned property sales for non-citizens, and the Bolzano region is Italy has restricted the sales of holiday homes to people outside the region.

“We can’t go on like this, it’s not fair that people who are living in areas already disadvantaged in terms of a lack of work opportunities have to see their communities slowly being transformed as locals have to move away in order to find a house to live in.

“I am deeply concerned about the effect this will have on the Welsh language, it will be a stain on the conscience of the nation if the language is allowed to wither away in its heartlands simply because the Welsh Government doesn’t want to act.

“But this is an issue that affects the whole of Wales as house prices keep inflating – the measures on affordable housing, LTT rates and the localism clause would benefit first-time buyers all around the country.”

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