Welsh Government unveils 'ambitious' plan to tackle second home crisis

The new ‘three-pronged approach’ focuses on affordability and availability of housing, which includes plans for a pilot area, where new measures will be trialled and evaluated before a wider rollout.

Julie James MS, Minister of Climate Change, has highlighted three essential areas: 
  • Support: addressing affordability and availability of housing,
  • Regulatory framework and system: covering planning law and the introduction of a statutory registration scheme for holiday accommodation; and
  • Fairer contribution: using national and local taxation systems to ensure second homeowners make a fair and effective contribution to the communities in which they buy.

Supporting local communities

At the beginning of 2020 it was estimated there would be 24,423 second homes in Wales, with a significant number of these used or registered as businesses such as holiday units or listings on Airbnb and is partially to blame for the rising cost of house prices. More than 5,000 people signed a petition in the early part of 2021 calling on the Welsh Government to intervene and change planning rules to “ensure community control of the housing market”.

Responding to specially requested recommendations made by the Welsh Government in the Second Homes: Developing new policies in Wales report by Dr Simon Brooks of Swansea University, James stated that the three-pronged approach will kick-start a summer of action to determine how tackling the issue of second homes and rising house prices will be executed.

The Minister also plans to launch a statutory registration scheme for all tourist accommodation and continue to engage with stakeholders on the shape of the model that is to be implemented, inclusive of registration and inspection arrangements. 

Preserving Welsh-speaking communities

Along with working with stakeholders to agree the basis and location (or locations) for the pilot area and developing a support package for the trial, a Welsh Language Community Housing Plan will be published for consultation in the Autumn. 

Since the pandemic there has been growing concerns regarding the effects that large numbers of second homes can have on the long-term sustainability of Welsh-speaking communities. The Plan will aim to protect the interests of these communities.

Calls to address second home concerns

There has long been calls for Members of the Senedd to address concerns of Welsh locals being priced out of the property market with second homes and holiday lets to be restricted.

An obvious solution to address the need for more affordable housing in Wales is through delivery of additional social rented housing supply as part of a large-scale housebuilding programme, however, all tenures have a role to play in a healthy and fair housing system, which will be essential to any economic recovery as we emerge from the pandemic.

It is therefore crucial to find the right balance of measures that improve the availability and affordability of housing for local residents while not stifling the market or impeding the benefits local economies reap from tourism – anything introduced must be a careful trade-off. It is reassuring to note that the proposed measures will be trialled and evaluated before anything is scaled up. Basing policy decisions on strong evidence in this way should avoid unintended consequences that cause more harm.

Mark Hayward Chief Policy Advisor | Propertymark