Second home buyers or anyone planning to turn a property into an Airbnb or short term holiday let in Wales may soon need to apply for planning permission.
Welsh Government Housing Minister Julie James confirmed today it will launch a consultation on major changes to planning laws in a bid to dampen a housing crisis engulfing many Welsh-speaking communities.
The leader of Gwynedd Council, Dyfrig Siencyn has welcomed the move as “a key moment in our efforts to address the Welsh housing crisis facing our communities”.
READ MORE: The three ways Welsh Government will tackle second home crisis including closing a tax ‘loophole’
The consultation exercise will launch in January and seek views on introducing a new “planning class” for short-term holiday accommodation. The change, if implemented, would allow councils to designate specific “problem” areas where planning permission would be needed if any buyer planned to use a property as a second home or a short term let.
The change could be introduced from next summer.
Julie James also announced plans for a pilot scheme in Dwyfor, Gwynedd, to look at the issue of bringing long-term empty homes back into use.
Gwynedd Council will receive an additional £2 million to fund measures, including buying and refurbishing empty homes for social rent in the area, as well as shared equity schemes.
Dwyfor, which includes the Llŷn Peninsula, Porthmadog and the surrounding area will receive £1m from that pot, where as much as 50% of the entire housing stock is made up of holiday accommodation.
If the pilot scheme is a success it could be rolled out across other parts of Wales.
Anglesey, Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire, will also each receive £1m, Ms James confirmed today in the Senedd.
She said: “We want young people to have a realistic prospect of buying or renting affordable homes in the places they have grown up so they can live and work in their local communities,” she said.
“High numbers of second and holiday homes in one area can threaten the Welsh language in its heartlands and affect the sustainability of some rural areas.
“We are a welcoming nation and tourism is a major part in our economy bringing jobs and income to many parts of Wales.
“But we don’t want ghost villages in seasonal holiday spots – places where no one’s at home in the winter months.
“These are complex issues and there are no quick fixes. What may be right for one community may not work for another.
“We will need to bring forward a range of actions, there is no one silver bullet here!”
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The Welsh Government also confirmed this will form the basis of the Welsh Language Communities Housing Plan.
Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles said that while they wanted to ensure that people could afford to live where they grew up, it was also vital that Welsh-speaking communities “continue to be economically viable places for local people, especially young people, to live and work and where the Welsh language and culture can thrive”.
The draft plan includes support to create community-led social enterprises to help allow local
people the first chance to buy or rent a property and helping protect historic Welsh place names.
Many of the proposed housing measures had been recommended in a report compiled by Porthmadog based academic, Dr Simon Brooks, who earlier this year outlined a series of measures to tackle the affordability and linguistic impacts felt in many communities.
The leader of the Plaid Cymru-run Gwynedd Council has warmly welcomed the announcement.
Describing it as “a defining moment,” Cllr Dyfrig Siencyn said: “For the first time, the Welsh Government has recognised that it has a key role to play to ensure that current and future generations can continue to live in our coastal and rural communities as a matter of fundamental social justice.“
“Following today’s announcement, the practical discussions regarding the regulation of second homes, holiday homes and AirBnBs can begin in earnest.”
Dwyfor Meirionnydd MS, Mabon ap Gwynfor welcomed these “concrete steps”.
He said: “The challenge is huge, but with the political appetite, vision, strong policies, and sufficient financial resources to achieve our goals, there is still hope for a better future for Welsh communities.”
Consultations on both changes to planning classes and the proposed Welsh Language Communities Housing Plan will launch in the New Year.
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