DEBATE: Should we have stricter rules on second homes?

Tom Fyans and Sam Rowlands

June 17, 2022

Tom Fyans, director of campaigns and policy at CPRE, the countryside charity, argues YES

For those with enough money, it is easy to see why a second home is so appealing. You can have the best of both worlds; a home that offers an easy commute plus a place in the countryside, or perhaps by the sea, where you can unwind and enjoy the holidays. Perhaps you fancy retiring there one day. It’s the kind of dream to which many people aspire.

There are, however, a couple of problems with this utopia. The first is that the more second homes there are for some, the fewer first homes and rental properties there are for others. You might reasonably – and correctly – say the government should provide social housing for the have-nots. But that is where we run into the second problem: more housing has to go somewhere. And that – far too frequently – means goodbye countryside.

Not only do most second homes force up prices to unsustainable levels in our most beautiful and iconic rural areas, driving out local people on lower wages and hollowing out the soul of historic communities; they also, inadvertently, drive the destruction of the green and pleasant land that we need to sustain us all.

The problem is far more than aesthetic. Along with an acute housing shortage, we face the triple whammy of food, energy and climate crises. A healthy, thriving countryside is the only means by which we can restore nature to suck up carbon, farm sustainably to feed the nation and find appropriate land to help power a renewable energy revolution.

There are almost exactly 500,000 households on social housing waiting lists in England – and almost exactly the same number of second homes likely sitting vacant most of the year. The homelessness problem is partly a second homes problem. It’s time for us to address the national interest and rural housing need, not demand.

Sam Rowlands, member of the Welsh Parliament for North Wales, argues NO

As a Welsh Conservative Member of the Welsh Parliament, who sits on the Local Government and Housing Committee, we have recently undertaken an inquiry into second homes in Wales.

Second homes do continue to be a contentious issue in some communities across Wales, broadly where you’d expect – visitor destination spots.

According to the Office for National Statistics, there are a total of 1,397,387 chargeable dwellings in Wales, these being domestic dwellings in an area for which council tax is payable. Out of these 1,397,387 dwellings, just 19,818 were classed as second homes.

Of the 19,818 second homes in Wales, 42 per cent were on the Isle of Anglesey and in Gwynedd. In addition to this, the average property price of a second home is considerably higher than what a first-time buyer could buy, or even the average person, negating the argument that this is stopping local people entering the housing market.

It’s clear there is an issue in some communities. Nevertheless, it’s extremely disappointing to see second homes leading the housing debate, when there simply aren’t enough houses being built in Wales, and there currently being more empty homes than second homes in Wales.

A huge concern that I have with the second homes discussion at times is the tone of the debate and the damaging effect it could have on tourism. In my region of North Wales, this is a vitally important sector that supports tens of thousands of jobs and contributes around £3.5 billion a year to the economy.

Now is the time for all efforts to be put into building more homes and creating the right environment to encourage private developers and business, not continuing to press on an issue which only impacts a small proportion of areas.

Author

  • Tom Fyans and Sam Rowlands

    Tom Fyans is director of campaigns and policy at CPRE, the countryside charity, and Sam Rowlands is a Conservative Member of the Senedd (Welsh Parliament) for North Wales.

Written by Tom Fyans and Sam Rowlands

Tom Fyans is director of campaigns and policy at CPRE, the countryside charity, and Sam Rowlands is a Conservative Member of the Senedd (Welsh Parliament) for North Wales.

4 comments

  1. This is a tricky subject. I don’t have a second home but I know of friends whose parents have died and the homes have been left to their offspring. A home was left to a member of my family. I was given the opportunity to buy it but given the mortgage costs at that time and my wages (even though I had changed jobs and was earning twice the amount of money I could not afford to do so). The house sadly was sold but I now know it is a second home for someone and rented out permanently. Divorce amongst families is more frequent now than ever so families are split between two properties. Where there are children, eventually they will work and likely not returning to their family homes, but going where their employment is anywhere in the UK or abroad. In my view…more council properties are needed in good environments.

  2. The buying of second homes should come to an end as people who are local and whose families have been local to the area for generations are now being priced out of the market, cannot afford high rents. You can’t live in two homes simultaneously. The second homers aren’t helping with the industry of the area. They do bring some income but not all year round and so therefore not stable or sustainable incomes for local people. Some towns and villages become ‘dormitories’ and deserted for a large period of the year.

  3. I live in a village of 50 houses and 150 people now over 10% of homes are holiday lets or second homes. We have always been a tight community, with unlocked doors and sharing tools, fun etc. but this is threatening our ability to stay that way. Another village, now so far away has so many holiday or second homes there is hardly anyone there in the winter.
    Please help us from this scourge. There are so many people without homes at all and it is getting worse. If you want a holiday stay at a proper B&B or hotel, go camping but don’t stop a family being able to afford a home, especially if they have grown up in an area.

  4. The countryside is a precious resource and sadly the UK is one of the most nature depleted countries in the world – in 2016 it was ranked 189th out of 218 countries. The massive grabbing of green land for development since 2016 will obviously have worsened this situation, and when the land that has been acquired is used to build a few luxury homes instead of many affordable homes then the housing shortage will continue. Making sure the houses already built are utilised for permanent homes and not just holiday homes is one step towards saving the countyside. Interestingly the Conservative party ( who are all for building on green sites – using the housing shortage as justification ) received £ 6.4 million in donations from 36 developers in the 1st three months of last year.

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