The scale of the housing crisis that we face across our country has reached a critical point. 

House prices and rental prices are rising exponentially, second homes are hollowing out communities, and local residents can’t afford to rent or buy homes in their own area. 

As a party based in our communities, standing for our communities, Plaid Cymru has always led on this issue – from campaigning against the drowning of Capel Celyn in the 1960s, to fighting for the rights of people in modern day Wales. We have always raised the plight of those struggling to afford to live, work and thrive in their communities; we have helped the communities hit by devastating floods, and we continue to campaign for those at the heart of the cladding crisis.

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In order to implement real solutions for some of these problems facing people in our communities, and in order to offer stability in this turbulent time and to ensure that tackling the housing crisis is front and centre of Government policy, Plaid Cymru – subject to the ratification of the party membership – will enter into a co-operation agreement with the Welsh Government.

People are being priced out of their communities. The speed of growth in house prices in some parts of Wales has seen some prices jump up by a quarter, making first time buying more of a far-off dream than an achievable ambition for many. Rental prices have also increased more in Wales than any other part of the UK.

In my constituency of Dwyfor Meirionnydd, nearly half of all homes sold in 2019–20 were second homes and 60% of residents can’t afford to buy a house in the county. In Pembrokeshire, the number of second homes has increased by 1,200 in three years and in villages like Cwm-yr-Eglwys only two out of fifty properties are occupied all year round.

One in three people in Wales are living in unsafe or unaffordable housing with some families forced to choose between paying rent or mortgage payments and buying food.

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The last two years have really intensified this crisis with more people changing habits. Working from home has allowed many people to work from almost anywhere in the world with a stable internet connection. This – coupled with low Covid rates comparable to more built–up areas throughout the UK – has made rural Welsh areas more appealing to wealthy property buyers. The influx has tightened the screws on local property markets and increased prices. According to the ONS, average property prices in Conwy and the Vale of Glamorgan rose 24–25% in the year up to July 2021.

The National Wales: Mabon ap Gwynfor is the Member of the Senedd for Dwyfor Meirionnydd Mabon ap Gwynfor is the Member of the Senedd for Dwyfor Meirionnydd

The crisis has spurred Nefyn Town Council to launch the Hawl i Fyw Adra campaign. Without doubt, housing is a cultural issue, a generational issue, and an economic issue. People should have the right to live in their own community, to work within a commutable distance, and speak Welsh as part of their daily lives. If not, then the future prospects of communities all around Wales looks bleak.

The Welsh Government agrees with us that housing market failures have an impact on communities across Wales, and that action is required on a local level according to local circumstances, and the Senedd agreed unanimously to support our motion declaring a housing crisis back in June.

Moving forward, we have agreed on an immediate and radical policy response to address the proliferation of second homes and unaffordable housing, using a combination of Wales–wide and locally delivered interventions including the planning, property, and taxation systems.

All measures implemented will be tested against the relevant evidence base, and all will be subject to the legally necessary consultations. The actions to be taken forward immediately, include:

  • Publishing a White Paper to include proposals for a right to adequate housing, the role a system of fair rents (rent control) could have in making the private rental market affordable for local people on local incomes and new approaches to making homes affordable.
  • Allowing councils to set a cap on the number of second and holiday homes in any community 
  • Introducing measures to bring a higher proportion of existing homes, and especially empty homes, into common ownership at a local level
  • Introducing a statutory licensing scheme for short term holiday lets
  • Providing greater powers to local authorities to charge council tax premiums on second homes and increase taxes on second home land transactions
  • Exploring how we can ‘close the loophole’ and ensure genuine self-catered accommodation is distinguished from domestic properties with regard to local taxes
  • Implementing the recommendations from the Homeless Action Group, to ensure that if homelessness is to occur, it is rare, brief, and unrepeated
  • Exploring the implementation of Local Authority Mortgages, for those who can afford mortgage repayments, but cannot afford the initial deposit

All these measures will of course be subject to discussions and consultation at a local level, however, there is international proof that many of the measures can work to help solve the housing crisis. In terms of halting the destructive effect of second home ownership on communities, there are a great deal of successful examples to be found in places like Switzerland, Canada, and South Tyrol (an autonomous region in northern Italy).

It’s time to implement these measures in Wales. 

This agreement is a reaffirmation by Plaid Cymru of our commitment to our communities, and to the Hawl i Fyw Adra campaign. 

In property terms, the groundwork has been done and all searches have been completed. It’s time to exchange contracts on this agreement with the Welsh Government and, with the support of the Plaid Cymru membership, we can go ahead and sign on the dotted line.

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