Welsh Government Plans to tackle housing issues

Ministers announced last week that they are looking to put in place a pilot scheme with a range of options to try and tackle the housing issue the locals are facing across certain areas in Wales. The crux of this is problem is that local people in areas impacted are becoming more and more unable to afford properties due to the rising number of second-home or holiday home purchasers driving up property prices. Whilst this is happening in a number of places across Wales, the ministers are initially looking to target badly affected areas of Wales including Dwyfor in Gwynedd and Porthmadog.

Whilst there appears to be multiple ways the ministers and Councils can look to tackle the problem, including looking into shared equity schemes and rental availability, what can be done with empty homes, no new homes to be sold as second/holiday homes, taxes on second properties amongst other options, our focus in this article is the potential changes to the planning system in Wales.

At present it is not clear exactly how this will work, and a consultation is due to launch on the possible planning reform options in early 2022.  It appears that the possibility to use or create a new ‘Use Class Order’ may be a viable option, where primary residential homes will be given a different use class to secondary homes or holiday homes.  But what does this mean? This means it is likely that all properties will fall into a use class dependant on their use at the point in time the Use Class Orders come into statue/law.  This could in itself raise issues of evidencing current use and there is no information yet as to how this would be decided and/or classified.

Anyone who then wishes to convert from primary residential to either secondary residential or holiday homes may have a tough time of doing so. It could potentially see similar requirements to those required when lifting an agricultural tie such as marketing for a minimum period and proof that there are no local purchasers before the use can change. The consultation period will be key in determining how the objectives are implemented and enforced on the ground.   It is going to be important to get your views across or to seek representation from a planning professional within the consultations as necessary.

Whilst these proposals will bring likely benefit to the local people, the other immediate problem lies with those property owners who have second homes or holiday lets in these areas, especially where the use as a second home or holiday let cannot be proven or has not been established ‘legally’ i.e. use by only friends and family or there has not been ‘legal’ charges for a holiday let.  This is where it will be highly important to seek the advice of a planning consultant to assist with gaining a certificate of lawfulness in order to establish the correct use class for your property or to explore if there are any other options available. If this is something which may impact you, please do get in touch with us at Eldnar and we would be happy to look at your situation and options available.