Claims that a second home “crisis” is threatening the Welsh language in its very heartlands has prompted a 20 mile march as activists demand action.
Prompted by recent figures showing that 40% of all house sales in Gwynedd are now for second homes, campaigners trekked from Nefyn to Caernarfon on Saturday while urging the Welsh Government to implement emergency measures to stem their flow.
Nefyn Town Council has been particularly active over recent months, reporting that 30% of houses in Edern and 15% in Morfa Nefyn are holiday homes, while claiming that prices have gone “through the roof” since lockdown despite the average local wage being £16,000.
According to Gwynedd’s housing department, an additional 811 houses are needed in the county every year to meet current local demand, but with 830 homes being “lost” as second homes, this creates a “gap” of 1,641.
Earlier this week, the Senedd passed a proposal “recognising the challenges” of second homes on their affordability and availability in some communities, calling for an “evidenced, thorough review” of the situation while balancing the needs of the visitor economy.
But this was an amendment to an earlier Plaid Cymru motion which proposed doubling the council tax premium on holiday homes to 200%, a licensing scheme for renting properties via AirBnB, redefining the term “affordable home” and closing the “loophole” that currently allows second home owners to register their property as businesses and avoid council tax.
Next Thursday a full meeting of Gwynedd Council will debate a motion by Nefyn councillor Gruff Williams, seeking further pressure on the Government by calling for change to the Planning Act and making it compulsory to have planning permission to convert a house into a holiday home and setting a maximum percentage of 5% of second homes in any particular community.
But ahead of that meeting, pressure group Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg claims that the open market needs intervention to protect Welsh speaking communities from “destruction.”
“There’s an urgent crisis in the functioning of the housing and property market – and whole communities are losing a large proportion of their homes,” said Elfed Wyn Jones, chair of the Cymdeithas committee for Gwynedd and Anglesey.
“We call on the Welsh Government to pass a new Property Act which would give local authorities powers and reasonable funding to control the housing market in these areas.
“The government needs to prioritise communities, not capitalism.”
Rhys Tudur, who sits on Nefyn Town Council and helped organise the march, added that “time was of the essence” despite areas like Llŷn traditionally known as strongholds of the language.
“We are being priced out of the very communities we were raised, its been made impossible thanks to the hike in house prices,” he said, calling for the devolution of the Land Transaction Tax to local authorities.
“From what we can see day to day, our communities are being swept away under our noses and the Welsh language is being dismantled and depleted to a great extent and its heartbreaking to see the inaction of the Government so far.”
Speaking in the Senedd this week, Welsh Language Minister Eluned Morgan conceded it was a “really complex issue” but that the Government was determined to make it possible for people who are brought up in an area to be able to stay there.
Noting that they were delivering on 20,000 new homes, she added that Wales was the only UK nation where local authorities can charge up to a 100% premium on the standard rate of council tax on second homes.
“I think it’s really important that there’s an understanding we’ve been looking at this for quite a while,” she added, confirming they were looking at the situation in other parts of the UK where stricter measures on second homes are already in place.
“Dr Simon Brooks is currently undertaking a review of how other areas are dealing with second homes as a part of his work with the Hywel Teifi Academy, and I’m hoping that his study will help us to drive a way forward here.”
Get the North Wales Live newsletter delivered to your inbox every day for FREE – sign up here