Holiday homes in Wales and the housing crisis

If the housing market in England is on fire (社説, 21 六月), in Wales it is an all-consuming inferno.

Half of the houses sold in our constituency last year were sold as holiday homes, while in the village of Cwm-yr-Eglwys in Pembrokeshire (Sir Benfro), there are now only two permanent residents – the rest of the 50 houses are holiday homes.

The crisis in Wales is unique for its linguistic and cultural implications. As house prices rocket, young Welsh speakers are priced out – leaving former family homes empty, hoarding value.

The transformation of homes into assets has indeed been a policy of governments since Thatcher, but Labour in Wales have followed the same neoliberal path. Blind faith in the market meant a reluctance to grant special treatment to Welsh-speaking communities. But they exist nowhere else: they are unique, and the open housing market is destroying them.

Plaid Cymru wants direct interventions: changes to planning laws to allow councils to impose caps on the number of second homes, closing the loophole that allows second homeowners to register their properties as “businesses” in order to avoid paying the council tax premium, and regulations to treble the land transaction tax charge on the purchase of second properties.

The crisis is a symptom of a wider problem – an utterly broken economy. With a Westminster government that talks of “levelling up” while funnelling cash into wealthy Tory areas, it is now time for the Welsh government to show radical ambition to transform Wales’s economy.
Liz Saville Roberts MP
Plaid Cymru, Dwyfor Meirionnydd
Mabon ap Gwynfor MS
Plaid Cymru, Dwyfor Meirionnydd

George Monbiot’s article on second homes (23 六月), そしてその follow-up letters published (25 六月), did not cover planning policy which actively denies the use of existing dwellings as permanent homes. It is also much easier to get planning permission for a change of use, or conversion of an existing property (for instance an agricultural building), to a dwelling, if it is for a holiday home. It is nigh on impossible to get these occupancy restrictions subsequently lifted, even if the home is eminently suitable as a permanent residence. The planning permission for these residences restricts the use of the home to short-term holiday lets and denies their use to families and local people who may wish to live in them permanently. Isn’t it about time that the government looked into whether this is a viable and sensible approach. These holiday let properties also enjoy, in many cases, zero council tax.

Seeking planning permission to remove the occupancy restrictions on existing holiday homes often leads to failure. Cotswold district council, when it was under Tory leadership, aggressively and successfully pursued enforcement action against “unauthorised occupancy” by owners/occupiers of homes in the Cotswold Water Park who dared to use these homes as permanent residences. There are hundreds of thousands of such properties in the UK – isn’t it about time that these buildings were released into the national housing supply?
Stephanie Ayres
Chipping Campden, グロスターシャー

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