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English second home owners punished as Wales hikes tax by staggering 300%

Mark Drakeford calls himself 'Prime Minister of Wales'

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The Welsh Government is increasing council tax premiums on second homes to the maximum level and introducing new local tax rules for holiday lets. From April next year, the top level at which local authorities can set council tax premiums on second homes and properties left empty long term will be tripled.

Premiums are currently set at a maximum level of 100 percent. This year they were paid on more than 23,000 dwellings, according to the Welsh Government.

Under the changes, councils will be able to decide the appropriate level for local circumstances, setting the premium at any level up to the maximum. Some might choose different premiums for both second and long-term empty properties.

Rebecca Evans, Minister for Finance and Local Government, said: “These changes will give more flexibility to local authorities and provide more support to communities in addressing the negative impacts second homes and long-term empty properties can have. They are some of the levers we have available to us as we seek to create a fairer system.”

She added that the Welsh government would continue to make every effort to boost the supply and availability of homes.

However, Jonathan Martin, a spokesman for the Home Owners of Wales Group, told BBC Radio Wales Breakfast: “Where do they think we’re going to get this 300 percent from?

“I can’t afford it that’s for sure and I’m quite sure a lot of other people can’t afford it. It’s just astounding.”

Last summer the Welsh Government outlined a three-pronged approach to tackling the effects of second home ownership faced by communities in Wales.

It aims to address the affordability and availability of housing; amend the regulatory framework and make sure second home-owners make a “fair” contribution to the places where they buy.

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The measures announced on Wednesday form part of wider plans to address growing second home numbers and unaffordable housing under the Co-operation Agreement struck between the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru in 2021.

Recent data shows there were 24,873 chargeable second homes in Wales in 2021-22 although the figures do not account for commercial holiday lets.

As a proportion of all second homes in Wales, Gwynedd has the highest on 5,098 (20 percent) with Pembrokeshire second with 4,072 (16 percent), official data shows.

However, Welsh Conservative and Shadow Minister for Housing, Janet Finch-Saunders MS said it is deeply concerning that Labour ministers are pandering to their nationalist coalition partners and punishing aspiration and investment in Wales.

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She added: “The housing crisis is a direct result of years of successive Labour-led governments failing to provide opportunities and build enough houses, with house building falling below levels before devolution. What we see is a Labour Government desperately trying to act long after the horse has bolted.

“This Labour Government is failing to tackle the root issues of the housing crisis and failing to address the fact that there are more empty homes in Wales than there are second homes.
“Labour ministers in Cardiff Bay need to get a grip, address the housing shortage in Wales and provide an environment where hard work can be rewarded.”

Julie James, Minister for Climate Change, said: “We want people to be able to live and work in their local communities. But we know rising house prices are putting them out of reach of many people, exacerbated by the cost-of-living crisis we are facing.

“There is no easy answer or quick fix solution. This is a complex problem that requires a wide range of actions.”

Designated Member Sian Gwenllian MS said it was clear Wales faces a housing crisis.

She added: “So many people cannot afford to live in their local areas and the situation has worsened during the pandemic. These changes will make a difference, enabling councils to respond to their local circumstances and start to close the loophole in the current law.

“It’s a first, but important, step on a journey towards a new housing system that ensures that people have the right to live in their community. Second homes are a symptom of a wider problem – a market that treats property, not as a home, but as a way of making a profit.”

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