Second homes: Locals could get first dibs on houses in Welsh-speaking communities to ease crisis

The voluntary scheme would allow sellers to offer their properties to locals for a fixed period of time. Credit: PA

Local home buyers in Welsh-speaking communities could be pushed to the front of the property queue in a bid to help tackle the housing crisis.

The proposed "Fair Chance" scheme is designed to tackle the lack of affordable housing in Wales, particularly in places where there are large numbers of second homes.

It will allow sellers to offer their properties to local people in the area for a certain amount of time before they go on the open market.

Tenby is a popular destination for second - or holiday - homes. Credit: Chris Grandon

It's thought the scheme will be voluntary with further details yet to be announced. For example, it's still not clear whether the ability to speak Welsh will be a requirement from locals when buying.

Despite the proposed plans, house prices across Wales have risen sharply with critics claiming an increase in stocks of affordable housing is necessary to ease the property crisis.

With almost 40% of properties categorised as second homes in some parts of Wales, it's led to a generation of young people unable to buy homes in the places where they grew up, driving migration and fuelling resentment.

It's still not clear whether the ability to speak Welsh will be a requirement from locals when buying. Credit: PA

The Welsh Government said it will work with estate agents in worst-hit communities ahead of the publication of the final Welsh Language Community Housing Plan (WLCHP) in the autumn.

The scheme will also include support for social enterprises and community housing co-operatives. Additionally, steps to protect Welsh place names will be announced by the Welsh Government on August 4 at the National Eisteddfod in Tregaron, Ceredigion.

A new Commission for Welsh-speaking Communities (Comisiwn Cymunedau Cymraeg) will oversee the plan, bringing together experts to make policy recommendations aimed at protecting the Welsh language. It will be chaired by Swansea University academic Dr Simon Brooks.

In Tregaron, Jeremy Miles, minister for education and Welsh language, will give a taste of Cardiff’s plans to safeguard Welsh-speaking communities - and to stem the rise of second homes.

“For the Welsh language to thrive, we need sustainable communities and good job opportunities in the areas where it is widely spoken. This isn’t about imposing solutions, so everything we do will be in line with local communities’ aspirations”, he said.

Critics say an increase in stocks of affordable housing is necessary to ease the property crisis. Credit: PA

Other measures brought in under the Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru Co-operation Agreement give councils discretionary powers to increase council tax premiums on second homes – and long-term empty homes – by up to 300%.

Furthermore, plans for new planning law and land transaction tax changes were also announced last month, along with a licensing scheme for short-term holiday lets. From next April, self-catered accommodation must be let for half the year to avoid council tax premiums.

The measures appear to be having an effect already, with second home numbers falling slightly in counties like Gwynedd as owners wrestle with a 100% council tax premium.

Critics complain current measures will do little to address the rise of Airbnb short-term holiday lets, which has further tightened property supplies.

Jeremy Miles hopes the Commission will provide more solutions and warned some may be “difficult” to swallow: “I’ve said many times that the Cymraeg belongs to us all, as does the responsibility for its future.”

“We’ll have to be brave and tackle things together that might be difficult. I’m sure that some of the things the Commission will tell us will be challenging, but that’s important - that’s what will help us find the most effective answers!”

Comisiwn Cymunedau Cymraeg will produce a report spanning policy areas from education to the economy with its views expected to be “candid”.

As chair, Dr Brooks said the report will “examine the linguistic reality of Welsh-speaking communities” in order to “safeguard them for future generations”.