How the Welsh Government plans to tackle the issue of second homes

ITV News' Rhys Williams reports on what the Welsh government is doing to try and tackle the issue of often empty second homes

Concerns over second homes are certainly not confined to Pembrokeshire or Wales, but there are few better illustrations of the problem than the village of Solfach (or Solva in English), in Pembrokeshire.Here around a third of properties are second homes and even on a sunny day in June much of the village is remarkably quiet.

On Prendergast, a picturesque road which runs alongside the River Solva there are now 31 houses, but fewer than a third of those are permanent residents.

Knocking on the doors of the last ten houses on the road, only one was occupied - by a couple on holiday for the week.

The road also provides an effective illustration of another concern in coastal areas of Wales in particular, which is the effect of second home ownership on the Welsh language.

The measures are part of a wider commitment to address the issue of second homes and unaffordable housing facing many communities in Wales. Credit: ITV News

In England, town council like St Ives and Whitby have moved to impose their own local limits on second home ownership through the Localism Act (2011).

Town and community councils in Wales do not have the same powerful role in the planning process as town and parish councils in England and so the Welsh Government has been under pressure to act.

Now it’s moving to radically increase the number of weeks second homes must be occupied to qualify for business rates relief instead of council tax. 

As long as their properties were let for 70 days per year, second home owners were able to avoid council tax bills by registering their properties as a business.

Following changes coming into force today, though not legally enforceable until next April, this number would increase to 182 days per year to qualify for business rates.

This is part of several measures which will also allow councils like Pembrokeshire to impose council tax premium of up to 300% on second homes, effectively quadrupling them. 

Though welcomed by many who feel an over saturation of second homes is hollowing out their communities and creating a housing crisis, many in the tourism industry feel these changes are unviable and could lead to hotels and B&Bs selling up.

It’s a paradox for communities like Solva across the UK which depend heavily on tourism, with no obvious solution.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know