Urgent action needs to be taken to tackle the housing crisis as protests sweep rural Wales and young people are priced out of the housing market, according to activists.

Increased demand caused by people from cities looking to relocate to rural areas as a result of the pandemic and buyers snapholiday homes have been blamed for pricing locals out of the property market.

Last month saw demonstrations in Morfa Nefyn, Edern, Tudweiliog, Sarn Meyllteyrn and Aberdaron as campaigners demand protections for communities.

Another larger demonstration is planned for mid-July at Tryweryn near Bala. In Nefyn, campaigners were left devastated after attempts to save a local chapel fell short.

The chapel at Pistyll was advertised at auction with a starting price of £120,000 but eventually sold for £257,000.

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House prices in Wales have increased dramatically since the beginning of the pandemic.

Figures released by the Halifax bank earlier this year showed the average deposit in Wales for a first-time buyer went up £6,634 or 25% on the previous year, the biggest jump of anywhere in the UK.

The National Wales: Housing demonstration in Aberdaron

One housing campaigner explained how he had to work six jobs, seven days a week just to be able to save a deposit for a house in the area he calls home.

Elfed Wyn ap Elwyn, 24, from Trawsfynydd, said: “I’ve been trying to save for a house, but what I’ve noticed is the houses at the lower range have gone from £60,000 to £100,000 and up in the last few years. There is a house that was £90,000 just five years ago, and is now £135,000.

“I now work six jobs and my fiancée is working so we can afford a deposit. The average house in Trawsfynydd is £130,000 but the average wage in Gwynedd is something like £20,000.

“So no matter what I’m saving, I’m always chasing because I have to live but the house prices are just going up more and more and that’s just to get a deposit. It’s heartbreaking.”

Mabon ap Gwynfor MS, who represents Dwyfor Meirionnydd in Gwynedd, the county with the highest proportion of second homes in Wales with more than 10 per cent of houses classed as holiday homes, is calling for urgent action to be taken.

“The second home crisis is hollowing out communities, is impacting on the well-being of communities and our culture and language,” he said.

“Also people’s mental health as they struggle to find homes in their communities, it’s a basic human right to have a home and that right should be extended to living in your home community should you wish.

People should not be forced out of their homes because of their lack of economic clout, this is a social issue which pits the haves against the have-nots.”

The National Wales: Housing demonstration in Aberdaron

The MS is calling for changes to planning rules to discourage holiday homes and a ban on changing holiday homes to businesses as a way of avoiding council tax premiums.

But Welsh Conservative spokesperson on housing, Janet Finch-Saunders, defended holiday homes, saying housing campaigners were creating a “hostile situation” and threatening the tourism industry.

“With the Welsh Government building less than 3,000 affordable homes a year, homes in Wales being bought before viewing, and prices having soared 11% in the past year, I am clear that radical action needs to be taken to help people across the nation get on the housing ladder,” she said.

“Campaigning against second homes seems to be viewed by some as the solution. That isn’t the case, and is actually creating a hostile situation.

“The Welsh Government needs to look at the housing sector as a whole in order to fix the crisis we have in Wales.

“It’s an inconvenient truth that there are more empty houses in Wales than there are second homes. The Welsh Government needs to take urgent action to get these empty properties back into use, such as by extending Help to Buy to include buildings in need of renovation.

“This is the action that is needed, not targeting a section of our fragile tourism industry which is essential to Wales’ economic recovery and job creation.”

The National Wales: Housing demonstration in Pen Llyn

Both the Welsh Government and the Liberal Democrats agree something needs to be done to address the issue of second homes.

A spokesperson for the Welsh Liberal Democrats said: “Second home ownership is part of the problem in the housing crisis, especially in our rural communities, driving up costs and reducing housing supply, but it is not the only problem.

“The Welsh Liberal Democrats have pledged to crack down on second home ownership which has blighted many communities forcing many to move away and preventing others from owning a home in their own community.”

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “A large number of second homes in a local community can have a real impact on that community.

“Wales is the only UK nation to give local authorities powers to charge a premium of up to 100 per cent of council tax on both long-term empty properties and second homes.

“The decision to apply and increase council tax premiums rests with local authorities, and there are good examples of how premiums can be used to support local housing initiatives and how authorities can use their existing powers.

“We’ve also increased the higher rate of Land Transaction Tax, which applies when people buy an additional property.

“We are currently looking carefully at what further measures will have the most impact.”

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