Second homes clampdown in Wales will ‘rig’ the tourism industry for big business says travel journalist
The Welsh Government’s clampdown on second homes in Wales will rig the tourism industry in favour of big business, a travel journalist has said.
Jade Bremner, who has authored more than 30 Lonely Planet books, said that plans to classify only homes that were let out for longer periods as holiday lets would mean that local people would be unable to make extra money from their properties.
The Welsh Government confirmed last month that they would carry on with plans for tax hikes on holiday lets that do not rent out their properties for more than half the year.
Following a consultation, from April local authorities will be able to set council tax premiums on second homes and long-term empty properties to 300% from April 2023.
The criteria for self-catering accommodation being liable for business rates instead of council tax will also change at the same time, from 70 to 182 days.
But writing in the Telegraph, Jade Bremner said that this would “hackle post-pandemic recovery and cultural exchange when we need it the most”.
“It appears that the UK’s devolved governments are bowing to pressure from big chains and disgruntled residents who resent the tide of change in their towns and cities,” she said.
“But preventing people from bumping up their incomes with their own properties does not create a level playing field – quite the opposite – it rigs tourism in favour of big business and prevents travellers from seeking affordable and authentic experiences.”
Jade Bremner added that holiday lets put money “into the pockets of regular people” rather than large companies.
“Why should big chains and investors have a monopoly on places (like in New York and Barcelona)? And why are we policing what individuals can and can’t do with their own houses?” she asked.
She also added that staying in the homes of local people gave tourists a better sense of the places they were staying.
“Online short-term rentals have changed the way we travel for the better. It’s now realistically possible to stay in any small British hamlet, dip our toes into rural life, and truly understand what these communities are about,” she said.
“All while spending money in the local pubs and shops, buying local produce and stimulating the local economy. We can visit the places that don’t have space for a big hotel, and nor do they want one.”
The Welsh Government confirmed last month that they would crack on with their plans for tax hikes on holiday lets that do not rent out their properties for more than half the year.
Following a consultation, Finance Minister Rebecca Evans said that she did “recognise the strength of feeling among self-catering operators” but would not be changing the planned law changes.
“As part of the Co-operation Agreement with Plaid Cymru, we are committed to taking immediate action to address the impact of second homes and unaffordable housing in communities across Wales, using the planning, property and taxation systems,” Rebecca Evans said.
“As we continue to progress the package of measures and drawing on the latest evidence base, we will keep under constant review the whole range of levers available to use and how they may be deployed most effectively to meet our policy objectives and avoid any unintended consequences.”
She added that “I recognise the strength of feeling among self-catering operators and have listened to the representations from individual businesses and industry representative bodies.
“There is limited evidence available in relation to some of these considerations and I am grateful to the sector for providing additional information they have gathered from their members.
“This has been taken into account in completing the Explanatory Memorandum and Regulatory Impact Assessment, which makes use of the available evidence. I recognise that the stronger criteria may be challenging for some operators to meet.
“The purpose of the change is to help ensure property owners are making a fair contribution to local communities, for example by increasing their contribution to the local economy through greater letting activity or by paying council tax on their properties.”
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