RISING TIDE OF SEC­OND HOMES

Al­most 40% of Gwynedd sales in past year for hol­i­days or buy-to-let:

Caernarfon Herald - - FRONT PAGE - Gareth Wyn Wil­liams

AL­MOST 40% of the homes sold in Gwynedd last year were sec­ond homes, new fig­ures have re­vealed.

The data for 2017/18 shows that 39% of homes sold were ei­ther hol­i­day homes or “buy to lets” – an in­crease from 34% in 2016/17.

The 820 homes sold last year cost a to­tal of £154m.

In An­gle­sey, the per­cent­age rose from 29% in 2016/17 to 36% last year, with 450 sec­ond homes sold for £92m.

The fig­ures – re­leased by Her Majesty’s Rev­enue and Cus­toms (HMRC) – de­fine sec­ond homes as prop­er­ties bought by peo­ple who al­ready have pri­mary res­i­dences, which can in­clude prop­erty in­vestors and land­lords buy­ing houses to rent out.

Else­where in north Wales, sec­ond homes made up 28% of house sales in Conwy, 24% in Den­bighshire, 21% in Wrex­ham and 18% in Flintshire.

The only places in the UK where the pro­por­tion of sec­ond homes is higher than Gwynedd are Kens­ing­ton and Chelsea, with 47%, and Westminster, with 45%.

The rise in sec­ond home sales comes de­spite the UK Gov­ern­ment im­ple­ment­ing an ex­tra 3% stamp duty charge on addi- tional prop­er­ties, which was in­tro­duced in 2016 to try to de­ter buy-to-let land­lords, prop­erty in­vestors and hol­i­day home own­ers. In April 2018, in a bid to fur­ther slow the trend in North Wales, Gwynedd coun­cil in­tro­duced a coun­cil tax pre­mium for sec­ond homes, rais­ing the amount own­ers pay by 50%.

An­gle­sey has also in­tro­duced sim­i­lar mea­sures by slap­ping on a 25% pre­mium for sec­ond home own­ers, which came into force a year ear­lier.

De­spite pro­pos­als for sim­i­lar moves in Conwy, the lo­cal au­thor­ity scrapped a plan in Novem­ber 2017 af­ter de­cid­ing there were “too many loop­holes in the sys­tem”.

This claim was some­what vin­di­cated when a recent Gwynedd coun­cil re­port re­vealed that own­ers of hol­i­day homes were us­ing a le­gal loop­hole to avoid pay­ing coun­cil tax.

Any hol­i­day homes reg­is­tered as busi­nesses should the­o­ret­i­cally pay busi­ness rates, but do not have to pay coun­cil tax as long as their home is avail­able to let for 140 days a year.

Af­ter al­low­ing for ex­cep­tions, and changes in sta­tus or cir­cum­stances, coun­cil of­fi­cers es­ti­mated that an ad­di­tional rev­enue of £1.9m from sec­ond/ hol­i­day homes and a fur­ther £800,000 from long-term empty prop­er­ties would be­come avail-

The im­pact

of sec­ond

homes is

im­mense,

driv­ing up

house prices

and re­duc­ing

com­mu­ni­ties

to ghost

towns

dur­ing

win­ter

MP Liz Sav­ille Roberts

able. The au­thor­ity is now lob­by­ing the Welsh Gov­ern­ment to close the loop­hole.

In Jan­uary, St Ives MP An­drew Ge­orge called for re­form af­ter talk­ing of “in­dus­trial scale tax avoid­ance” and “pref­er­en­tial elec­toral in­flu­ence” by sec­ond home own­ers in Corn­wall.

The Un­der-Sec­re­tary of State for Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment, Rishi Su­nak, ac­knowl­edged there was “scope for am­bi­gu­ity” and that the sit­u­a­tion was be­ing in­ves­ti­gated. Cllr Alun Mum­mery, An­gle­sey’s hous­ing port­fo­lio holder, said: “We were one of the first Welsh coun­cils to bring in a pre­mium and it was de­cided to cap it at 25%, but since then many oth­ers have opted for 50%.

“Per­son­ally I think that this is some­thing we should re­visit and pos­si­bly in­crease in the fu­ture.

“I’ll be ask­ing for this to be re­viewed, al­though I’m also mind­ful of the im­por­tance of strik­ing the right bal­ance.”

His coun­ter­part on Gwynedd Coun­cil, Cllr Craig ab Iago, de­scribed the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion as “con­cern­ing”.

“We are very much aware of the im­pact of sec­ond home and hol­i­day home own­er­ship on the avail­abil­ity of af­ford­able homes in Gwynedd,” he said.

“In re­sponse to the sit­u­a­tion, the coun­cil has in­tro­duced a coun­cil tax pre­mium of 50% on sec­ond homes.

“The truth is this is just one of many prob­lems within our hous­ing mar­ket. We are in the process of writ­ing our new hous­ing strat­egy where, us­ing the lim­ited pow­ers we have, we hope to tackle as many of these is­sues as pos­si­ble.

“Re­spon­si­bil­ity for plan­ning and hous­ing rests with the Welsh Gov­ern­ment and we would wel­come fur­ther dis­cus­sion with them re­gard­ing this con­cern­ing sit­u­a­tion.”

Dwyfor Meiri­on­nydd MP Liz Sav­ille Roberts said she was aware of the “frus­tra­tion” felt by young peo­ple be­ing priced out of the mar­ket in their own com­mu­ni­ties.

“The im­pact of sec­ond homes is im­mense, driv­ing up house prices be­yond the reach of lo­cal salaries, while re­duc­ing com­mu­ni­ties to ghost towns dur­ing win­ter months,” she added.

“Hous­ing and plan­ning are both de­volved and the Welsh Labour Gov­ern­ment must use their pow­ers to ad­dress the deep in­equal­ity of which the sec­ond home mar­ket is a stark sym­bol in many ru­ral and coastal com­mu­ni­ties.”

Jeff Smith, from Cymdei­thas yr Iaith, added: “More and more peo­ple are fac­ing dif­fi­cul­ties set­ting up home in their lo­cal area.

“That in turn un­der­mines com­mu­nity life, our towns and vil­lages, lan­guage and Welsh cul­tures.

“It’s vi­tal that the Welsh Gov­ern­ment acts to re­duce the im­pact of this hous­ing cri­sis on Wales’ com­mu­ni­ties. We need a sys­tem that en­sures house prices re­flect what lo­cal peo­ple can af­ford.”

Ac­cord­ing to the Trea­sury, it is the UK Gov­ern­ment’s pri­or­ity to sup­port first-time buy­ers. A Trea­sury spokesman said: “Higher rates of stamp duty on sec­ond homes means we can af­ford to of­fer more sup­port to first-time buy­ers through the stamp duty re­lief.”

● Ne­fyn Beach in Gwynedd

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