DOUBLING the second home premium and setting a cap on how many holiday properties can be set up in a community are among the demands raised in a new Pan-Celtic housing charter.

In a bid to protect their respective native tongues, pressure group Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg has joined language rights movements in Cornwall, Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man in calling for further regulation of holiday homes, Airbnb lets and higher second home  council tax premiums.

Described as a “crisis” which has resulted in a lack of affordable housing for young people, the Pan-Celtic housing charter has been described a means to stop more young people leaving their communities, which they say is having an impact on the number of speakers.

Among the most radical demands are introducing doubling the council tax charged on the owners of second homes and houses used for Airbnb.

Such a move, they say, would also need to include the closure of any loopholes in the law which allow owners to avoid the premium, such as switching to non-domestic rates as is currently being lobbied by several local authorities via the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA).

Also proposed is a cap on the percentage of second homes within a single community and devolving planning powers, including the ability to set housing targets, to the most local level and that language planning be obligatory.

Calling for the definition of affordable housing to match local wage levels, Cymdeithas chair Bethan Ruth described the charter as “historic.”

“Cymdeithas yr Iaith has long emphasised the importance of ensuring that houses are available to local people,” she said.

“The issue of summer homes was brought to attention decades ago. The Celtic Housing Charter will be a way for our countries to share experiences and learn how to resolve problems together.

“Of course, there are differences between each country, and Cymdeithas will be focusing more on matters that are related to Wales over the coming months.

She added, “I would like to thank our friends in Mebyon Kernow, Misneach, Misneachd Alba and the Isle of Man for standing with us for the rights of the speakers of our languages to live in their own communities whilst there are so many challenges facing us that make it increasingly more difficult”.

Other demands contained within the charter include:

  • Regulating the use of houses which are primarily or only used for Airbnb as well as the price of rent so that they are affordable for people in local employment
  • Creating a property law to govern prices, prioritising housing for local people and ensuring the use of current houses before developing
  • Incentives to renovate and/or build sustainable housing in accordance with materials and method of building
  • Taxing landlords’ profits in order to invest in bringing empty and second homes back into public use for local people and their communities

At present shorter term holiday lets, like holiday homes, do not require planning permission to be changed from everyday residential use, with councils in Wales said to have “very limited powers to intervene”.

Robat Idris, the chair of Cymdeithas’s Sustainable Communities Group, added: “Covid-19 has brought about many problems that stem from the housing situation to the fore.

“We saw an unprecedented number of people escaping to their second homes, and Airbnb still advertising accommodation to rent during lockdown. But these are red flags – like a canary in a mine.

“Wales is seen as a place to escape to, as some kind of playground, not somewhere where there are living communities. The lack of housing for local people threatens to undermine our Welsh speaking communities in the areas where the language is strongest.”

The Welsh Government has been approached to comment.