Second homes: calls for ‘urgent steps’ to tackle Gwynedd ’emergency’

Geograph (Jaggery)

Council chiefs have called for ”urgent steps” to tackle what it calls a ”holiday homes emergency” in Gwynedd.

It follows a growing backlash – and protests – from campaigners in the wake of a big increase in house prices.

A new report, due to be discussed next week, claims nearly 60% of local people are being priced out of the housing market in the county.

There are more second homes in Gwynedd than any other part of Wales – and the local authority says the situation has reached a ”critical point”.

According to Gareth Griffith, the council’s cabinet member for the environment, the trend has intensified in recent years – because websites such as Airbnb and Booking.com have made it easier to market residential units for holiday use.

He said: ”In some areas of the county, the situation is truly alarming with an AirDNA survey showing an increase of 915% in available units in Gwynedd in the summer of 2019 as compared to January 2017.”

”At a local level, county councils like Gwynedd are implementing policies and initiatives to enable local people to access the housing market.”

”But there is only so much that councils are able to do within current legislation, and there is an urgent need for (the) Welsh Government to introduce all-Wales legislation before it becomes too late.”

The research, carried out over the past year, reveals 10.7% of Gwynedd’s housing stock – around 6,800 properties – are being used as second homes, compared to the national all-Wales average of 2.56%.

The council intends to introduce an action plan to make housing more readily available for local people.

But officials want ministers in Cardiff Bay to take a number of measures, such as:

  • A compulsory licensing scheme for short-term holiday accommodation, managed by local councils
  • Changes to the Local Government Finance Act, which ensure any dwelling is not the main or sole place of residence

The man responsible for overseeing Gwynedd housing, Councillor Craig ab Iago, says it’s ”frankly immoral” that in a village like Abersoch, nearly half of all homes are holiday accommodation and the average house price stands at more than £365,000.

He added: ”Ensuring a suitable supply of housing for local people to live in their communities is a key priority for us.”

”But spiralling house prices due to the demand for holiday homes and second homes is pushing the fundamental right to a home in their own communities beyond the reach of local people in an increasing number of our communities.”

The report also recommends following the lead in Scotland, where councils will require all holiday units to obtain a license before they can be let out. Some authorities are also requiring planning permission.

Councillor Griffith added: ”Such a system in Wales would be a significant step forward, and we need to see the Welsh Government introducing similar rules.”

”Here in Gwynedd, we are committed to intensifying the work of looking in detail at our local planning policies to consider the steps we can take locally to further control the situation. I am confident that as a council, we will be introducing improvements as soon as possible.”

The council’s communities scrutiny committee will consider the findings next Tuesday, before it goes to the cabinet a week later.

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