Plaid urges minister to tackle second-homes crisis

Plaid Cymru has taken its case for controlling second homes in communities to Welsh Government ministers.

In a meeting organised with the planning Minister Julie James last night to discuss the issue Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru’s North Wales MS, said it was high time that the Welsh Government allowed councils to act to safeguard communities and cap the number of second homes. He and fellow Plaid Cymru colleagues Rhun ap Iorwerth and Delyth Jewell had called for the meeting to tackle the urgent problem of second homes in Wales.

Plaid Cymru recently published a 16-page report [see link below] containing five main recommendations to tackle the crisis.

They included proposed measures to change planning laws to allow councils to impose a cap on the number of second homes, allowing councils to charge council tax premiums of up to 200% on second homes and ensuring the Welsh Government brought forward regulations to treble the Land Transaction Tax charge on the purchase of second properties.

Mr Gruffydd said: “The minister needs to take action now because this is an existential crisis for some parts of Wales. One in eight homes in Gwynedd are now second homes owned by people outside the county and these empty properties have knock-on effects on services locally, including schools.

“We also want the minister to close the loophole that allows second-home owners to register their property as ‘businesses’ in order to avoid paying the Council Tax premium.”

He also highlighted the need for a licencing scheme for renting properties through companies such as AirBnB to control the numbers and backed Plaid Cymru’s calls to empower councils to build houses with a local condition 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.

Plaid Cymru’s report looks to countries such as Canada, Denmark and Ireland for inspiration on tackling the problem. It states: “The challenges posed by having too many second homes are not confined to Wales.’ The report also refers to Northumberland and Camden’s efforts in England.

Mr Gruffydd added: “We in Wales need the powers to fix our problems ourselves, but the situation isn’t improving with over a third of homes sold in Gwynedd and Ynys Môn during the last financial year being purchased as second properties.

“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 see their communities being transformed as locals have to move away in order to find a house they can afford.”

Further discussions are taking place on the matter.

1 Comment

  1. The second homes crisis has come through a lack of planning. It shouldn’t be a surprise that some tourists will want to buy houses here when so many of them come to Wales, and let’s not forget that Tourism brings more revenue to Wales than Farming, especially now Brexit has happened and EU subsidies are gone. I agree that its wrong that businesses receive Council Tax exemptions. This burdens holiday communities and potentially increases council tax rates for others. However, Council Tax is a payment for services delivered by the Council and local services. It is simply wrong, and potentially destructive, to penalise second home owners. Plaid claim that in the worst affected areas, locals are moving due to a lack of housing., so build affordable housing and by all means limit tourists from buying up housing stock. Doubling Council Tax for second homeowners is punitive. They’re the easy option, outsiders, maybe even English, they have no vote here so can’t influence Plaid’s standing in elections. Maybe I’m being cynical but there are no other areas in the UK where someone is called upon to pay double the amount that their neighbour pays for the same service. This will not solve the problem of local people moving away from an affected area, in fact it could actively discourage Tourism and reduce income. Our problems are significant, but this is an unjust and punitive solution:

    To address the problem of housing stock – build affordable housing.
    To increase Council Tax income – cancel business exemptions and make them pay.

    But don’t stifle the housing market by scaring away would be house buyers. Many of our communities have benefited from the sale of our housing stock, the income from tourism and the jobs that it brings. Limits can be applied to this but it’s simply wrong to apply an enormous increase in Council tax years after the house has been bought in good faith. Yes, I’m a second homeowner, but circumstances differ. I bought a dilapidated Barn that had been on the market for 3 years with no local interest. It took 8 years to refurbish/rebuild and provided income to local businesses and tradesmen, and still does. It’s not a business but friends and family use it as our guests and continue to contribute to local businesses. If I’m forced to sell by these Council Tax premiums then it won’t help first time buyers in any way, it’s not practical for that purpose. So please reconsider this proposal, it’s potentially bad for the economy of Wales, it’s unfair and will not solve the problems you say it will.

    Liked by 1 person

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