Plans to tackle the second-homes crisis in Wales have been flatly rejected by opposition parties, who suggest the government's proposals are either misguided or fall short of what is needed.

The lack of available, affordable housing in parts of rural and coastal Wales has pushed many local people – especially young, first-time buyers – out of the housing market and eroded communities, with some villages down to just a handful of permanent residents.

Climate change minister Julie James, whose department is responsible for housing, said the government was "keenly aware of the challenges being faced" and wanted to "ensure that the interests of local people are protected".

She has proposed a "three-pronged approach" to the problem: the government will address housing affordability in affected areas, bring in tighter regulations for holiday accommodation and short-term lets, and adapt tax rates so that second-home owners make "a fairer contribution".

But the plans, which was announced yesterday, have drawn criticism from Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Conservatives.

In the Senedd, Plaid MS Mabon ap Gwynfor, whose Dwyfor Meirionnydd constituency is one of the areas of Wales where housing problems are most acute, welcomed the government's "recognition at last" of the matter but said the plans "lead one to think that the government doesn't really appreciate the real gravity of the situation".


He criticised "ambiguity" in the plans and asked why the government wasn't moving "more immediately" to address the crisis: by closing a loophole that allows some second-home owners to "play the system" and circumvent council tax, by more quickly changing the rules on short-term lets, and by committing to higher land transaction taxes for additional homes.

"You can do this without even making any changes to legislation," he told the minister. "We don't need any further delay. House prices are shooting up before our very eyes, and young people are having to leave their communities or live in second-class accommodation. Unless you take steps to take action now, then we will see more communities lost."

Conservative MS Janet Finch-Saunders said the issue was "too important" for party politics and "I want to see us genuinely working across the board".

She noted a report to the Welsh Government, by Dr Simon Brooks of Swansea University, which looked at the housing crisis in detail.

There was "in fact little evidence that second homes are the main cause of high house prices, as opposed to buyers moving to reside there permanently," Finch-Saunders said.

Expanding the housing stock in tourist areas without "due diligence," she said, would "be bound to encourage significant population movement from other parts of the UK" and make it more difficult for local people to find an affordable home.

The answer, she suggested, was to restore the Right To Buy scheme and reinvest funds from sales back into affected communities.

She also called for more details on the government's plans to further tax second-home owners, arguing that they – and visitors to holiday accommodation – contribute to those areas' local economies.

"They provide jobs, they provide support for our economy, and I'm totally against these high premiums," Finch-Saunders said, adding: "I don't believe that this is an issue you can simply tax your way out of."

The minister said rejected the idea of reviving Right To Buy, saying: "We don't have enough social housing, so selling some of it off doesn't make any sense."

Samuel Kurtz, from the Conservatives, said he was glad the government had not put forward a "sledgehammer policy which could do more harm than good" but, like Finch-Saunders, urged ministers to remember "the enormous economic benefits that the domestic holiday industry brings".

James said the government's plan "isn't an exercise in making Wales an unwelcoming or inhospitable place—far from it".

She added: "What we need to do is make sure that we have sustainable communities that can thrive with our tourist industry, because the tourist industry itself needs the people locally to be living there in order to be able to take the jobs and service the tourist industry itself."

The government will now look to set up pilot schemes for its "three-pronged approach" in the coming months and launch a consultation on the issue. James said this was because "there is a different set of problems in each community" and a "one-size-fits-all approach" wouldn't be appropriate.

But Plaid MS Sian Gwenllian, like her party colleague ap Gwynfor, urged  the government to speed up its response to the crisis.

"This announcement today is very disappointing and weak," she told the Senedd. "We don't have a plan here, but three headlines, which are short, vague and lacking detail.

"Consulting and pilot schemes won't help young people who need a home and who are being priced out of their communities now."

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