WALES has a chronic housing shortage.

In 2015 the Public Policy Institute for Wales (PPIW) estimated the need for between 174,000 and 240,000 additional homes between 2011 and 2031.

That’s up to 12,000 houses and flats per year with 7,800 provided by the private sector and 4,200 by social housing at current trends. The reality is very different.

An average of 5,000 new homes are being built annually by private companies, not many of those truly affordable either, while the social housing sector is only managing to build 850 homes a year. That’s a problem for young people.

Go into small rural communities around the country, particularly around our coastline, and the impact of the housing shortage is made worse by second home ownership which is destroying communities and killing the Welsh language.

Second homes in Llanengan on Pen Llŷn, which includes Abersoch, account for 40 per cent of the housing stock. The village of Cwm-yr-Eglwys in Pembrokeshire is down to its last Welsh speaker, now in his late eighties.

READ MORE: 'I don’t want rural Wales to be just somewhere for the wealthy'

Plaid Cymru and others have long campaigned for reform. In 2002 we put forward a sensible plan to limit the number of second homes.

Tory leader Nick Bourne called the idea ‘loopy and unworkable’ adding that there was a ‘whiff of racism’ about it.

Earlier a Plaid Cymru councillor had called for the monitoring of people moving in to Welsh speaking communities. A complaint against him resulted in a police investigation which found no case.

Tory MP Alun Cairns smeared Plaid members in 2016 when he and I appeared on Question Time, labelling us ‘cottage burners’. Don’t worry though. I gave him a good b******ing afterwards in the green room. These exchanges get us nowhere. You can see the (on air) encounter by clicking here.

Last year came hope with the Welsh government-Plaid Cymru co-operation deal giving local authorities the power to raise council tax premiums on second homes and long term empty properties by 300 per cent.

Councils have also been given planning powers to restrict holiday lets and second homes in areas most affected by their proliferation.

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Will these measures work? And, more importantly, is there the political will across government and beyond to make them work?

For all the hostility shown to those who defend our communities, new research carried out by the Welsh Election Study team at Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre shows that most people in Wales support measures to limit second home ownership.

And when people were given suggestions of ways the measures would help - protection of the Welsh language and provision of affordable homes - the numbers supporting the measures went up considerably. Even a majority of Tory voters were in favour.

Welsh government has the backing for change. It must take full advantage of the support and go further and faster to reform the housing market before it’s too late.

Cymdeithas yr Iaith’s campaign ‘Nid yw Cymru ar werth’, outlined by Cymdeithas Chair Mabli Siriol Jones in my very first podcast, calls for community control over housing. Ultimately that must be the overriding aim of policy makers in the months and years ahead. 

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