UK Minister at odds with Welsh Tories over second homes and holiday lets crack down
The UK Government’s Housing Minister has defended plans to crack down on second homes and holiday lets in tourist locations in England.
Michael Gove has put himself at odds with the Welsh Conservatives, who have vociferously opposed the introduction of restrictions in Wales as part of the co-operation agreement between the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru.
On 1 April a package of measures was introduced in Wales to address the negative impact second homes and holiday lets can have on the availability and affordability of housing for local people.
Mr Gove is seeking to introduce proposals to force second home owners in England to seek planning permission before renting out their properties as holiday lets, insisting that “the issue there is a simple one of fairness”.
Holiday homeowners are turning coastal towns into hotels with an “almost permanent Airbnb setting,” he added.
Speaking to The Telegraph, the minister said: “We’re not saying that people shouldn’t be able, when they themselves are on holiday or away for business, to let out their home through Airbnb. Of course they can.
“But there is a phenomenon. And it does occur in coastal areas, and in some of our most attractive tourist areas; where you will have institutions buying up properties, and then having them in almost permanent Airbnb setting.
“And what they’ve done is that in effect, taken local housing stock – that local people expected it to be for them – and turned it into a sort of rival hotel.”
“I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be able to run a business like that. But if it is a business rather than a home, then we should recognise [that],” he added.
Welsh Conservatives have strongly opposed moves to tackle the issue of holiday homes being let out as businesses in Wales.
The party’s leader in the Senedd, Andrew RT Davies described the crackdown as “anti-tourism, and anti-English policies being imposed on the Welsh tourism industry”.
He also claimed the restrictions “will lead to tourism businesses being forced to close and thousands of tourism jobs lost.”
Janet Finch-Saunders, the Shadow Minister for Climate Change, accused the Welsh Government of being obsessed with targeting second homeowners and legitimate holiday let businesses and claims there will be “a tsunami driving landlords to sell up”.
The MS for Aberconwy also said efforts to reduce the number of holiday homes in communities is exacerbating the shortage of private rental properties in Wales.
Mrs Finch-Saunders most recent register of interests shows that she jointly owned seven properties, including a residential/holiday-let property in Menai Bridge with her daughter.
From 1 April all councils in Wales are allowed to set council tax premiums on second homes and long-term empty properties to 300%.
The criteria for self-catering accommodation being liable for business rates instead of council tax changed at the same time, from 70 to 182 days.
The government says this change will stop second home owners from classifying homes as businesses to avoid tax.
A licensing scheme for all visitor accommodation has also been confirmed.
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