Second homes: How are they affecting Wales and its communities?

Research found 7.3% of houses in Wales were sold as second homes, compared with 1.7% across the UK. Credit: Chris Grandon

Second homes are a contentious issue for Wales, but as concerns continue to significantly grow, we look into the bread and butter of the issue.

  • What exactly is a 'second home'?

A second home is a residence you intend to occupy for only part of the year. Typically, a second home is used as a vacation home, but owners themselves can also visit regularly - particularly if you have business in that area.

This means longer term tenancies for locals in the community are usually unavailable in second homes as they cannot be continuously rented out for the entire year.

In some circumstances, the properties will see an influx of people during the summer months, but can then sit empty for long periods of time in the winter.

The UK already faces a housing shortage as house prices and rents have both increased significantly. Credit: PA
  • So where in Wales are there lots of second homes?

Four times as many houses were sold as second homes in Wales compared with the UK average over last 12 months, according to Nation Cymru.

It found 7.3% of houses in Wales were sold as second homes, compared with 1.7% across the UK.

Second homes are more common in seaside and rural communities, especially where tourism rates are high. These areas include Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Swansea, as well as Gwynedd, Anglesey, Denbighshire, Flintshire and Conwy in the north.

To take Gwynedd as an example, the county recently came out on top with the number of chargeable second homes in Wales, according to Welsh Government data. One in every 10 houses in the county is now a second home.

Research found a total of 4,720 chargeable second properties for the period 2022/3 in Gwynedd. In addition, the region also had 1,349 long term empty second properties. This means more than 6,000 properties are unavailable as homes for local people in the county.

The Welsh Government said it's taking "immediate and radical" action to tackle the injustices in the current housing market. Credit: PA
  • What are the concerns around second homes?

The UK already faces a housing shortage. House prices and rents have both increased significantly, with the lack of affordable homes being one of the main issues for people.

When second homes are added into the debate, more homes are taken up which leaves fewer for people to buy or rent and thus drives up prices further.

Some argue these holiday homes can push locals out of their own communities, particularly young people, who can't afford to get on the property ladder. This can also affect job prospects and the local economy - altering a town's identity altogether.

When it comes to politics, second homes are still very much a contentious issue. Over a quarter of MPs (177 to be exact) own 312 residential properties between them, according to Transparency International UK.

Whilst some use their second residence for work purposes, others have rented their properties out to make more money.

Second homes are still very much a contentious issue in politics, with 177 MPs owning an additional property. Credit: PA
  • Do second homes bring any benefits?

Those who own a second property would argue they are helping to contribute to the local economy by renting out their holiday home - particularly when it comes to tourism.

There are many places across Wales which benefit from and rely heavily on tourism during the summer months.

One second home owner, who is from Derbyshire but has a second home in Pembroke, says people like him "undoubtedly contribute to the local economy".

He argued: "For me the Welsh Government should be promoting a more inclusive environment. Keep second home owners in Pembrokeshire spending money."

First Minister Mark Drakeford and Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price set out a number of measures to tackle the issue. Credit: PA
  • Where does the Welsh Government stand on the issue?

The Co-operation Agreement between the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru recently announced a commitment to tackle the issue of second homes, which affects many communities in Wales.

Increasing tax, introducing planning permission and licences are among the measures being introduced in a bid to tackle people being priced out of their local area.

The Welsh Government previously introduced a range of measures to address the issue of second homes, including giving councils the discretionary power to increase council tax premiums on second and empty homes and it has changed the rules on holiday lets so owners and operators make a fair contribution to their local communities.

Discussing the issue, First Minister Mark Drakeford said: "Tourism is vital to our economy but having too many holiday properties and second homes, which are empty for much of the year, does not make for healthy local communities and prices people out of the local housing market.

"There is no single, simple solution to these issues. Any action we take must be fair. We do not want to create any unintended consequences, which could destabilise the wider housing market or make it harder for people to rent or buy."