Community life could collapse in second-home ravaged areas if nothing is done, a top academic has warned.

Swansea University’s Dr Simon Brooks was tasked with reporting on the holiday homes crisis by the Welsh Government.

He made the dire warning in an interview with The National.

“I think that if market trends continue, if there is this situation where people want to de-camp from the cities, to in particular coastal communities and if there is no public policy intervention in the next 10 years then we will see two things happen.

“The first is we will see house prices go up and up and up, which will price local people out because they are all lower wage communities,” said Dr Brooks.

“The second is we will see a greater and greater percentage of second homes as part of our housing stock. I don’t know how high that will go, I know in Abersoch it is just over 50 per cent.

“If nothing were to be done we could get to a situation where we have a number of communities in Wales where over half the housing stock are second homes. I think that is a real possibility if there were to be no intervention.”

The National Wales: Swansea University's Dr Simon Brooks.Swansea University's Dr Simon Brooks.

The second homes situation has seen protests recently in Pen Llyn as city dwellers look to move to rural areas during the pandemic and as home working becomes more favoured by employers. Another large protest is planned at Tryweryn near Bala in mid-July.


The past year has also seen huge rises in house prices with Wales leading the UK in the trend. Figures released by the Halifax, just this week, showed house prices across the UK booming but Wales showed the strongest growth up 11.9 per cent over the past year.

This week it was announced that the village school in Abersoch is likely to close by the end of the year due to a lack of pupils.

Gwynedd County Council’s cabinet will be asked to issue a statutory notice to shut Ysgol Abersoch, which has just 10 pupils, when it meets next week. The move, representing a formal notice of closure, would give the public 28 days to issue their objections amid plans to shut the school by the end of December 2021.

Councillor Dewi Wyn Roberts, who is opposed to the proposal to close the school, said: “The local housing problem does reflect in the school numbers. Young people and families can’t be housed in the village due to house prices.”

He said he, his children and grandchildren, and many friends all speak Welsh but he fears for the future of the language:

“It’s one of the oldest languages in Europe, used on a day to day basis, but that tradition will change if we don’t do something about housing. The only way to do it is to be brave and the council need to be brave and keep this school open.”

Dr Brooks warned the second homes crisis is destroying village life.

He said: “Very few people would live there, those communities would be hollowed out. Those communities would find it hard to support a primary school as we have already seen in Abersoch. It makes it much harder to maintain local facilities and you do get to the tipping point where villages are empty for long periods of time then social life collapses as well. So it becomes less appealing for local people to live there.”

Last year Dr Brooks was asked by the Welsh Government to write a report on the crisis. His recommendations included changes to planning laws to allow councils greater discretion on allowing houses to be changed into holiday homes, as well as changes to the tax system.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We understand the concerns raised by communities where there are higher numbers of second homes. 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.

“We’ve also increased the higher rate of Land Transaction Tax, which applies when people buy an additional property. We acknowledge that there is no single answer to resolve this complex issue and are currently looking at what further interventions are possible.”

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