Airbnb threat to communities leads to ‘locals only’ policy idea

Agents are being dragged into a debate over whether locals should be given priority to rent or buy, as a result of concerns over a proliferation of Airbnbs and holiday homes.

The Welsh Government has already proposed a series of radical reforms of the housing sector, for both lettings and sales.

Currently, properties available to let for a minimum of 140 days in any 12-month period, and actually let for at least 70 days, pay business rates rather than council tax. But from April 2023, properties must be available to let for at least 252 days and actually let for at least 182 days in any 12-month period to qualify. If an owner cannot meet these thresholds, then they will be required to revert to paying council tax.

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However, holiday let owners argue that the 182-day rule is unfair and unrealistic for most owners due to seasonality – many areas get few if any bookings in the autumn and winter periods

The Welsh Government is also giving local authorities power to increase council tax to 300 per cent on properties that fail to reach what councils regard as minimum occupancy.

And there will be planning reforms to officially designate different types of property as owner occupied or holiday home or rented.

Now it appears the Welsh Government is also expecting property industry activity to pay more respect to local consumers.

In a speech at the National Eisteddfod in Tregaron, ahead of the publication of the final Welsh Language Community Housing Plan in the autumn, Jeremy Miles – the Welsh Government minister for education and language – discussed the principle of a ‘fair chance scheme’ to help sellers make decisions about how they sell property, by allowing properties to be marketed locally only, for a fixed period. 
 

Janet Finch-Saunders, who speaks for the Welsh Conservatives on housing, said the approach “appears to be promoting discrimination against house buyers who do not speak Welsh”. 

“This is, of course, completely unacceptable. Immediate clarification on this policy is needed from the Labour government.”

A statement says: “The Welsh Government will also work with organisations such as estate agents to address the housing needs of those communities. The Welsh Language Community Housing Plan will also include support for social enterprises and community housing co-operatives, as well as steps to protect Welsh place names.”

A commission is being set up to examine “the linguistic reality of Welsh-speaking communities today in order to make policy recommendations which will help safeguard them for future generations.”

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