Finally, the powers that be are trying to instigate a double council tax on holiday homes. Many locals are jumping up and down in joy, but many are not. Why is that?
A lot of people have in in their heads that as tourism is our main industry, then the houses all being sold as second homes to people from outside the county is all fine and dandy. But is it really?
There’s an ex-council house up for sale in St Florence for nearly 200k. Yep, you heard right. It’s on an estate where there are so many generations being forced to move into houses together due to rising local house prices, that there is nowhere at all to park, so anyone new will be fighting a losing battle before they start, and then they’ll probably complain to the council that there’s nowhere to park. I remember that same estate when I was a kid, playing down there with friends. There were just a normal number of cars. Now, it’s completely ridiculous.
These holiday homes, second homes, whatever you want to call them, quite often get let out as Air B&Bs while the owners aren’t around. I’ve spoken to a few owners of guest houses around the place, and they’re all saying that their businesses are being affected by the enormous amounts of Air B&B in the county. So this hike in council tax that the second home owners are gonna get, they could quite easily pay with just one weeks income, offset against tax, and et voila, they hardly notice the new council tax rules and nothing changes.
Meanwhile, villages are shrinking because no-one lives in them, businesses and local shops and post offices suffer because no one uses them, and then they close. Wintertime, everything around here looks like the Marie Celeste. Summertime, you can’t move around the county because the London traffic has made its way from Piccadilly Circus to here.
There are literally thousands upon thousands of holiday parks, caravan sites etc in this county. If people want to buy a holiday home, then fine, they can buy one of them. They’re supposed to be holiday homes. That’s what they’re there for. People can still play their status games – some caravans are getting on a for a quarter of a million quid. Some people just love to tell you all about their houses and homes and what they’re worth. There. Show off your caravan with its deck and sea view. What’s the point of emptying the caravan sites and guest houses of holiday makers and cramping them all up into delightful little rural cottages?
I’ve said it before but it needs saying again. You try renting a small affordable property around here to live in. Go on. I dare you. But you’ll find a little cottage for your week’s holiday quick as a flash, because all the nice little places are now in the clutches of the moneyed classes. If you’re homeless in Pembs, there’s literally nowhere to put you. All the council houses are being sold up, or have already been. There is no housing available any more for local people. Local covenants aren’t strict enough, even if they are in place. Pretty soon our prices will be like the prices in Cornwall. And we wonder why our young people abandon the county, land of very little opportunity and super high property inflation.
If someone has a holiday home in west Wales, a bricks and mortar (or more often stone) place, we should at least make it so they can’t rent it out. Because that’s not bringing money to the area. It’s bringing money to someone who lives elsewhere, and taking from the legit holiday establishments which we already have. It doesn’t even need staff, so results in no employment, apart from a cleaner for two hours on a saturday. It’s way too easy for the owners of these properties to just cover the extra council tax that they’re going to have to pay. A few hundred quid isn’t much in the scheme of things to these people.
This council tax hike is definitely a step in the right direction, and it shows that finally, people up top are beginning to see the effect these properties have on our local economy, and the damage they do to communities and the locality. The four million it will raise in extra revenue will be much welcomed. But we have to also support local tourism businesses, and not let their trade get taken by opportunists. Enough of our housing stock is now going to the new breed of work from homers.
The new housing project in Solva looks promising, and is to provide affordable homes. Let’s hope they’re actually affordable to people on Pembrokeshire wages. Real Pembrokeshire wages, the jobs you see advertised for 15k a year full time. Make houses affordable for those people, otherwise affordable is a complete misnomer on every conceivable level. Don’t change the rules in a few years’ time. Make sure they aren’t lost to people who will use them as spare houses, when they already have one.
Close this gap, before we all fall down intro the chasm. And congratulate the councillors who are pushing this. For all the people who say councillors aren’t worth their money – and in some individual cases I’d agree – I’d also argue that some of them clearly are.