WITH reports that increasing numbers of people are unable to afford homes in the areas they grew up in, Plaid Cymru calls for an urgent action by the Welsh Government to ensure they gain control over this issue. The measures include a new ‘second home’ property classification and an immediate closure of the tax loophole that allows second homeowners to opt-out of paying council tax.
Siân Gwenllian, Member of Senedd for Arfon, and Plaid’s Deputy Leader for Party Policy says that the proliferation of second homes has escalated to such an extent in some areas of Wales that a large proportion of locals are now priced out of the area, whilst the local demand for social housing outstrips supply. Ms Gwenllian has called for a package of measures to give control over an area that she says “Welsh Government does not yet have a handle on, nor shows the political will to tackle.”
Councillor Craig ab Iago, Housing Leader in Gwynedd Council, says that 60% of Gwynedd’s residents cannot afford to buy a house in the county, whilst figures recently published by Welsh Revenue Authority for March 2019-April 2020 show that almost 40% of properties sold in Gwynedd were purchased as second homes – the highest in Wales. Cllr ab Iago says that properties in his ward are often marketed solely as second home opportunities by estate agents, and it is akin to “rubbing salt on a wound.”
According to data from Gwynedd Council’s housing department, an additional 811 houses are required each year in Gwynedd to meet current local demand, but with 830 houses “lost” as second homes, this creates a shortfall of 1,641 houses each year.
Ms Gwenllian points out that this isn’t just a rural issue. Swansea City Council data estimates around 1800 properties in the City are second homes, with the Gower, Swansea West and the Marina areas of the City is most affected. The majority of people owning such properties within Swansea have their normal home outside of the city area.
Plaid Cymru housing spokesperson Delyth Jewell, MS says that the Covid-19 pandemic has brought a spotlight on the issue of second homes, saying its “crucial for a sense of community that local people aren’t priced out of their home” and calls for 50% of all new housing stock to be reserved as social housing.
The package of measures being called for by Plaid Cymru include:
A new classification for second home usage – this will give the government the ability to control the volume of houses being used as second homes; and
Immediate closing of the loophole that allows second homeowners to opt-out of paying council tax
Siân Gwenllian said:
“Rising volumes of second homes causes many problems for communities – in pushing up house prices, leading to depopulation and threatens the sustainability of our communities for future generations. Yet, the Labour Welsh Government has failed to introduce any mechanism to protect our communities and our local housing stock.
“Introducing greater controls around the volume of houses that can transfer from being primary homes to second homes or buy-to-let holiday accommodation, and closing the council tax loophole, will help protect local communities and the income streams of local councils so that they can help meet local needs.
“Welsh Government does not yet have a handle on, nor shows the political will to tackle this problem. They have allowed this to escalate to a point where our communities are facing the perfect storm: a local housing crisis as the demand for social housing outstrips the supply, whilst the volume of second homes spirals out of control and house prices rocket beyond the reach of local people. Not only has Plaid Cymru shown the way, we certainly have the political will to solve this.”
Delyth Jewell MS, Shadow Minister for Local Government, added:
“The Covid-19 pandemic has shone a light on the problems that rising levels of second home ownership can cause – but make no mistake, the problem was there before and will continue to grow unless urgent action is taken.
“Housing is central to a sense of community and it is crucial that local people aren’t priced out of their home. It is so important to enable people to stay in the area they grew up in, and a policy that ensures 50% of all new housing stock has to be social housing will go some way to address this.
“When you have homeowners that have a mechanism to opt-out of paying council tax, this impacts council income streams and further disadvantages communities. It is essential that the Welsh Government acts to control this problem immediately.”
Councillor Craig ab Iago, Housing Leader in Gwynedd Council commented:
“Having a home and a roof over your head is a core principle that, in my view, is not being met by rigid, outdated Labour Government policies in Cardiff and the Tory policies in Westminster. The housing development and planning systems in Wales need to be overhauled.
“An example from my ward is of a converted chapel that an estate agent based in England put on the market for £400,000 as a second house or holiday home. The average salary for a Gwynedd resident £16,000 a year. Promoting this former chapel, in this insensitive manner, is doing nothing, bar rubbing salt on a wound.”