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Second homes crisis set to worsen because of Brexit and Covid-19, warns report

02 Mar 2021 4 minute read
The coastal village of Aberdyfi, Gwynedd. Picture by Llywelyn2000 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The second homes crisis in Wales is likely to get worse because of Brexit and Covid-19, a new report has warned.

The report, commissioned by the Welsh Government has made 12 policy recommendations to address the issue and its impact on Welsh speaking communities.

This includes a recommendation that concerned county councils raise the council tax premium on second homes by 100 per cent, and that the Welsh Government should consult on exempting short-term holiday accommodation from being eligible for small business rates relief.

Dr Simon Brooks, Associate Professor in the School of Management at Swansea University, was originally commissioned to report on taxation and planning policies on second homes in Wales and Cornwall after receiving a grant from the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol.

The Welsh Government requested the research to be expanded in order to scrutinise some wider issues relating to second homes and to make policy recommendations.

Second homes make up almost 40 per cent of the housing stock in some communities in Wales.

Second homes: Developing new policies in Wales, examines taxation and planning policies, Brexit, the Covid-19 pandemic, the impact of second homes on the sustainability of communities, the Welsh language and its future.

One of the main findings of the report is that the problem of second homes is largely a regional and local phenomenon.

There is a regional pattern to the distribution of second homes and holiday lets, with a very high number in some rural counties such as Pembrokeshire, relatively high numbers but smaller percentages in some cities, and some post-industrial and urban areas have hardly any second homes at all, such as Torfaen.

Dr Brooks also includes one specific recommendation for Gwynedd and Anglesey Councils as these two counties form the core of the Welsh-speaking region with the highest density of second homes (10.76 per cent and 8.26 per cent respectively).

The report recommends that they widen the Local Market Housing policy in their Local Development Plan to include more communities.

‘Community language’ 

Dr Brooks advises that the Welsh Government should establish a commission to make further recommendations about the future of the Welsh language as a community language.

He said: “The likelihood is that structural problems, such as young Welsh speakers leaving rural communities due to a lack of economic opportunities, will deepen.

“However, this will not happen in a vacuum. Due to economic and cultural changes in the wake of Brexit, and also as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, these communities, which are already particularly vulnerable linguistically, and which will become more vulnerable for the reasons noted, will face stiff competition for resources in the housing market.”

Dr Dafydd Trystan, Registrar of the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol, said: “The Coleg Cymraeg very much welcomes Dr Simon Brooks’ report and we are pleased to have been able to support this important work through our small grants scheme.

“As the report shows, the situation of second homes in Wales is complex and varies from region to region, and the solutions are complex as they touch on economic, linguistic and planning policies.

“We very much hope that this robust evidence base report will be an important step forward in the discussion on the field and provide information and recommendations to the Welsh Government as they introduce policies to address the situation.”

Recommendations in the report include:

  • trialling in a community the establishment in planning law of a new use class for second homes. Such a trial would evaluate the feasibility and impact of requiring planning permission before converting a main residence into a second home.
  • adding a rate of up to 4 per cent to the land transaction tax on second homes in specific local government wards, or otherwise devolve power to county councils to vary the tax.
  • making the conversion of a dwelling house into short-term holiday accommodation subject to planning permission.

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