The Welsh government is announcing “urgent” new measures to tackle the growing number of second homes – with some villagers warning the country is at risk of losing its “traditions, history and people” if action isn’t taken.
The minister in charge of housing, Julie James, will reveal a number of policies today.
They include proposals to increase the amount of affordable housing, potentially limit the number of second homes allowed in certain areas, and to allow local authorities to increase the council tax premium they can charge second-home owners to up to 200%.
The southwest county of Pembrokeshire is a tourist hotspot and has the second-highest number of second homes in Wales.
The village of Lower Solva is feeling the brunt of the problem – about 75% of properties there are either second homes or holiday lets.
“Wales isn’t a theme park – people genuinely live here – this is where our lives are,” says Josh Phillips, landlord at the Harbour Inn.
“We’re not a tourist attraction to be gawped at and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for young people to stay locally and live in those communities that their parents lived in.”
He told Sky News that the village is like a ghost town in the winter, when the majority of homes are empty.
“We’re sort of selling our soul in some ways and losing our traditions, history and people which is sad to see – especially for youngers trying to get on the housing market – its nigh on impossible,” said Mr Phillips.
“It’s almost like people in Pembrokeshire are too poor to live in Pembrokeshire.”
The county already charges second-home owners a premium council tax of 50% above the normal rate, with about 3,600 properties affected.
One scheme the government wants to see more of allows that council tax to be used to build affordable homes for rent, specifically for local people.
Solva has permission to build 18 such houses, but since the announcement last year building work is yet to start and progress has been slow.
Rachel Lewis, 25, was born and bred in Solva but is having to live in a static caravan because she’s priced out of renting or buying there.
“It’s just frustrating more than anything,” she says.
“There’s so many of us in the same situation, so many of my friends either having to move areas to get on housing ladder or also living in some form of temporary accommodation, yurts, caravans around the area.
“And it’s just really frustrating to feel like we’ve come back and we want to support the economy and hopefully build families and so on, and it’s just not possible for us for at this time because second-home owners are pricing us out.”
Ms James told Sky News: “We’re absolutely determined to build community and cooperative housing and social housing that gets people warm, comfortable, secure home…
“We live in a very beautiful place – it’s a very attractive to people – but we also want them to be vibrant, sustainable communities full of people who want to live, work and stay here.”
She added: “The urgency and gravity of this situation calls for further intervention, which means real and ambitious actions are delivered at pace, to inject fairness back into the housing system.”
Plans will be trialled in a Welsh location yet to be decided this summer before being considered for a wider rollout later this year.