by Theo Davies-Lewis
Wednesday, 2
June 2021
Debate
11:10

Second homers are a threat to Welsh culture

Locals are being priced out of their home turf
by Theo Davies-Lewis
Pen Llŷn beach as part of the Hawl i Fyw Adra (The Right to Live at Home) movement

Like the late, great Jan Morris, I have struggled to define the ever-alluring, nostalgic and mystical term, ‘Celticness’. At the very least, perhaps, we can say that being a Celt is identifiable by the language we speak. For me, a romantic west Walian, it is Cymraeg — Welsh — that provides a cultural touchpoint which means no matter where I am, there is a linguistic shield against the never-ending threat of Anglicisation.

Morris was right over fifteen years ago in pointing to several factors that jeopardised the future of Welsh-speaking communities globally and, believe it or not, within the territory we call modern ‘Wales’. But of all the threats to Cymraeg, none are so severe as that of second homes: a ‘plague’, Morris said, and one that continues to haunt Celtic places. (Such properties make up close to 40% of housing in some communities across Wales).

Take the case of Cwm-yr-Eglwys, a village in Pembrokeshire: only two out of the 50 properties have permanent residents while a third is on the market for £1m. Further north, Gwynedd is a hotspot for second homes. While the average wage is around £24,000 annually, locals were recently outbid for the village chapel in Pistyll, which sold for £275,000. The asking price? £120,000.

With more than 10% of housing stock in the county designated as second homes, it is no surprise that the mantra for the second home buyers — Nid yw Cymru ar Werth (Wales is not for sale) — is growing in resonance. It comes on the heels of another campaign, Hawl i Fyw Adra (The Right to Live at Home), that has been drawing attention to places like Anglesey, where house prices have shot up 16% this year.

But this sentiment is not new. During the Thatcher years, a militant group Meibion Glyndŵr even went so far as to fire-bomb hundreds of English-owned properties across Wales.

Fortunately, such violence no longer occurs, but second homes have since become a mainstream political issue. Just this weekend dozens of councils wrote to the First Minister Mark Drakeford calling for urgent action on taxation and planning policy.

The First Minister insists there is no “single bullet” for solving the crisis, but he could start by working on some of the recommendations proposed by his own Government: calling for controls on the number of holiday homes or implementing a 100% council tax premium on such properties, for example.

We cannot let young Welsh-speakers become tourists in their own area. The new proposals seem like a sensible step towards helping those who want to raise a family, find work and grow old in their square mile.

But for now, all I can suggest, again borrowing a phrase from Jan Morris, is simple: enjoy your stay – then go away – come again another day!

Theo Davies-Lewis is the National Wales’s chief political commentator. He is a native Welsh speaker from Llanelli, west Wales.

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Dawne Swift
Dawne Swift
1 year ago

My children were all priced out of London, where they were born, and their ancestors were born and bred for at least 250 years. Priced out due to immigration which increased the demand for housing exponentially. This is no less a crime than the young Welsh being priced out of their homeland.

Hilary LW
Hilary LW
1 year ago
Reply to  Dawne Swift

This is certainly a serious problem for young Londoners, but the article isn’t about London, it’s about Wales – specifically, those areas of Wales where the Welsh language and culture are under threat from massive property price inflation, generated at least partly by the proliferation of second homes. Welsh-speaking locals can’t afford to live in their own communities any more. This is true, and the fact that these properties are unoccupied for much of the year only encourages more local resentment.

That said, the author fails to identify the origin of the problem, in London, other cities, the South West and in any area in these islands considered desirable to live or to have a holiday base. This is, as always, the unregulated property market, driven by greed and opportunism from the powerful building industry, from property speculators and the wealthy who can afford to price ordinary people out of the game. Free-market capitalism inevitably leads to these gross inequalities where the weak are pushed to the wall. Nothing is gained by complaints about the “Sais” (English incomers) where the entire economic system fuels and rewards runaway property inflation, and the subsequent exodus from London and the major cities.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I know the problem is a lot more widespread and complex than the article suggests.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
1 year ago
Reply to  Hilary LW

Diversity is a strength not a weakness. Or so we are told. In any case, why can’t Welsh people simply not sell their homes if they wish to remain in Wales? Would be homeowners would have to look elsewhere. But selling your Welsh home and then complaining that Wales is over run with non Welsh makes little sense,
“This is, as always, the unregulated property market, driven by greed and opportunism”
you mean by Londoners and others selling their homes for huge amounts of money? Seems like the folks getting the enormous amounts of money for their homes are the greedy ones. They are hardly the “weak, pushed to the wall”.

Last edited 1 year ago by Annette Kralendijk
kwmorgan1404
kwmorgan1404
1 year ago

In most cases it’s housing developers building new homes in desirable North and West Wales tourist towns and villages, in which Welsh is the dominant language, but young Welsh language speakers cannot afford the housing prices due to second homeowners buying them up. It’s ethnic as well as social cleansing. It’s those with Welsh or Ancient Welsh DNA being replaced by Anglo-Saxons and Normans. Same crap, different century.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
1 year ago
Reply to  kwmorgan1404

“but young Welsh language speakers cannot afford the housing prices due to second homeowners buying them up.”
Young Welsh may not be able to afford the new homes but not because someone else can, including second homeowners. They can’t afford them because they don’t have the money. Is there nowhere else they could live? What about the home where they grew up?
developers are always going to want to build in desirable areas, that’s just part part of being a developer. They are not bad people for doing this.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
1 year ago
Reply to  Hilary LW

Let’s make up a problem and then regulate it. Then we will have a problem. And then we can blame capitalism for it. And greed and Thatcher and [insert rant of day here]. None of it will be true of course. But who cares about that.

kwmorgan1404
kwmorgan1404
1 year ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

No, not at all. This is about Welsh language speakers being replaced by English speakers in Welsh speaking communities in North and West Wales. Are you unaware of the Welsh speaking communities of North and West Wales? My English Stepdad was, until he heard Welsh being spoken in North Wales. Ignorance is bliss, eh!

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago

Why not force all incomers to learn Welsh to a high standard and take a test to prove it? That will sort the buyers from the boyo’s.
More seriously, I agree that it’s a big problem in places like Wales and Cornwall. Meanwhile, the English are being driven out of their own cities by alien cultures and high crime rates etc.

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

I am pretty sure half of actual Welsh people would fail this. More in the south.

kyonvor
kyonvor
1 year ago

The rate of second homes in Wales is 2 per thousand residences. For Westminster it is 22 per thousand. There are more second homes in Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth than Pembrokeshire. Just saying.
.

Waldo Warbler
Waldo Warbler
1 year ago

OK – so you acknowledge that supply and demand mismatches can cause severe pricing impacts.
Now you need to have the intellectual honesty to take the next steps and point out that immigration is a FAR greater driver of this mismatch than secoind home ownership.

Last edited 1 year ago by Waldo Warbler
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  Waldo Warbler

And BUILD MORE homes if you think they are needed, how silly to not just do that. Actually just let the people build more homes.

As I sit here I have applications being drawn up to build 3 cottages (been waiting for materials prices to drop, lumber 300% higher) Just stop denying building permits. Easy.

Waldo Warbler
Waldo Warbler
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

There is a legitimate public interest in considering how much of this small country we should concrete over in order for people to move here from elsewhere.
Immigration rates warrant a new Nottingham being built every year. I am not sure most people realise that or want it.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
1 year ago
Reply to  Waldo Warbler

Our village is now a town , when they have built on all the land between the two main conurbations , where are they going to go to build this new Nottingham?. Protected green land & parks of course , but after that , where do they go , the river , the sea , the mountains? I presume the second-homers are getting somewhere away from it all, though creating their own urban areas in what were romantic but poor rural spots -the Lakes , Cornwall , Wales etc.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
1 year ago

Surely the author should welcome diversity, multi culturalism, efc….this is positively hate speech.

Kathryn Richards
Kathryn Richards
1 year ago

It is all very well complaining. The SW has had this problem for decades.
But the inconvenient fact is that it is locals who are selling the properties, for lots of money.
If you know how to solve that problem, please let us know.

Luke Chew
Luke Chew
1 year ago

‘the never-ending threat of Anglicisation’
There’s a few other demographic changes that are taking place in Wales (especially in the cities), though I doubt people like you Theo will be saying anything about that. You’re well aware of what you can say, and what would cause you problems if you dared speak out about other issues

David Hughes
David Hughes
1 year ago
Reply to  Luke Chew

For the 2019 General Election campaign, Plaid Cymru issued a poster showing the face (well, just the eyes actually) of a veiled muslim woman accompanied by the slogan “Ni, yw Cymru”, broadly translatable as “You are Wales”. This was no doubt intended to show how on-board they with ethnic diversity, multiculturalism and cultural enrichment. Given that stance, complaining in the next breath about anglicisation and the supposed threat it poses to Welsh culture requires an act of mental gymnastics of truly epic proportions. Or do they really imagine that all the Afghans, Somalis, Syrians and other assorted muslims that they’re so keen to import are going to transform themselves into Welsh-speaking chapel-goers within a few years of arrival?

George Bruce
George Bruce
1 year ago

At the very least, perhaps, we can say that being a Celt is identifiable by the language we speak. 

Oh dear, that rules out this Scotto-Irish Celt – I could not tell you more than about three or four words in any Celtic language.
Either the southern Scots are not really Celts (for south and east of the Highlands Gaelic was not spoken in the last several hundred years, or is it more than a thousand?)
Or a second possibility – that the lines I have quoted at the top are silly.
Actually, I once read a good Guardian article (yes, really!) in which an Irishman went round Dublin trying to pursue everyday activities in Gaelic (which of course they all study in school) and much abuse and hatred was directed at him for doing so.

Last edited 1 year ago by George Bruce
Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
1 year ago
Reply to  George Bruce

It’s well known that a good proportion Irish children despise their mandatory Irish lessons, with the same hostility to grammar drills you once heard in England vis-a-vis Latin, although many used to grin and bear it for the few extra marks it used to give you (even in maths).
In Wales, my impression is it is less seriously examined and is one of those light-entertainment offshoots of the curriculum, and so is not such a big deal, and a higher proportion of the population speak it anyway.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
1 year ago
Reply to  George Bruce

There are several Celtic languages. Two of them may be separated by a long period of time, P Celtic and Q Celtic. As for Celtic genes, perlease….

D Ward
D Ward
1 year ago
Reply to  Anna Bramwell

Indeed. You’d be in prison for hate crimes if you mentioned how proud you were of your English genes…

John Alyson
John Alyson
1 year ago

The fact that the village chapel was being sold because it wasn’t being used as a chapel just shows that culture and times change. Why should we care any more about the Welsh language than the demise of Welsh chapel going?

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  John Alyson

Time to force the English schools to require Morris Dancing and the putting on of Mumming Plays.

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
1 year ago
Reply to  John Alyson

I also wonder what the solution to this. Taxing second homes will at best slow the decline. Does the author envisage Soviet style internal passports?

Graeme Laws
Graeme Laws
1 year ago

It’s the finding work that’s the tricky bit. Banning or taxing second homes will not create a single job.

Andrew D
Andrew D
1 year ago

Can anyone really defend having more than one home? Nice to have, and I don’t think I’d support legislation to ban it, but can it really be defended?
But is it that nice to have anyway? Why have the worry of being tied to a place that is empty and unused most of the time, but still has to be furnished, insured, maintained and kept secure? When for a fraction of the cost you could escape to somewhere new and different?

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew D
James Rowlands
James Rowlands
1 year ago

I was born in Wales, come from a long line of Welsh speakers, always had a house in Wales, but cannot afford to make a living in Wales.
The problem is that since devolution, it has been a one party state. No not like the Singapore model……
Like many Welshmen we love the place and return whenever we can.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
1 year ago

“Second homers are a threat to Welsh culture”
The author has misidentified the threat. Who is selling homes to all these threats?
Seems to me that the Welsh could stop this threat today, if they saw it as a threat and if they wanted to. Is it possible they are trying to blame others for their own actions?

Last edited 1 year ago by Annette Kralendijk
James Slade
James Slade
1 year ago

And how is that different from the North Somerset pit villages that are either second homes or commuter villages for Bristol and Bath. Things change, get used to it.

Last edited 1 year ago by James Slade
Janet G
Janet G
1 year ago

I live in regional Australia. Big turnover in houses in the past 2 years, tenants evicted, houses sold at elevated prices, sometimes sold quickly online without new owners ever having inspected, some buyers from other countries, houses standing empty for months on end.
Factors? Low interest rates for bank accounts (0.1%), low interest rates for mortgages (around 2%), rush to buy investment properties, no laws to protect tenants, people eager to leave big cities during lockdown times.
City people with money move to new quaint “tight-knit” community and immediately start demanding changes to update the place, including felling trees. Long-term locals bereft.
Meanwhile growing numbers of homeless people, especially older women, who have been evicted from rented properties because of rising rents and greatly inadequate government benefits. An older friend who has been told to move out of rented flat has been searching for a place. At least 30 people at every viewing and the place goes to the highest bidder. She can’t afford most of what is on offer. Australia: “The Lucky Country”???

Last edited 1 year ago by Janet G
Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
1 year ago
Reply to  Janet G

“Factors? Low interest rates for bank accounts (0.1%), low interest rates for mortgages (around 2%), rush to buy investment properties, no laws to protect tenants, people eager to leave big cities during lockdown times.”
you left out the main factor…..homeowners wanting a huge windfall by selling. Without this, none of the other factors would matter.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
1 year ago

Tragically one can always count on humans to be GREEDY. In NZ, the housing minister has called on landlords to be kind……..at least partly because NZ govts have allowed this situation to unfold and they have now minimal (tho trying….) control over the situation – and are reduced to pleading for the greedy to exercise kindness. Its pretty sad when one feels absolutely no hope of humans showing kindness where money is involved.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
1 year ago
Reply to  chris sullivan

So you see the problem in Wales as the greed of Welsh who currently own homes and are willing to sell them because they can make a lot of money?
Perhaps the housing minister in NZ should be kind and provide rent payments for struggling New Zealanders? Wouldn’t that solve the problem?

Peter Boreham
Peter Boreham
1 year ago

Sadly a 100% council tax hike is going to make zero difference…. Long-term solution is economic growth IN Wales

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago

As Kathryn says below, it is the local people – part of the culture – who should be blamed, not a government. The culture is killing itself.

Last edited 1 year ago by Chris Wheatley
Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
1 year ago

I am not sure second homes are really the driving force of Anglicisation. After all those people live there just some of the time.
Actual full time residents tend to be more of an issue. A good example is Catalonia in Spain where the industralisation of the area sucked in poor peasants from around the country between 1920-1970 and basically choked off traditional Catalan culture in the city. Then revived by a fairly extreme post-Franco autonomous community’s policy of ‘linguistic normalisation’ – pretty much forcing everything in Catalan. In reality such draconian measures, not political sustainable in Wales, seem to me the only way that obscure languages keep themselves going.
It strikes me the real boat of Anglicisation, especially years ago was the influx of England people for economic reasons since the 19th century in industrial and mining centres. For this reason areas around Cardiff and Swansea are virtually entirely Anglicised and the touristic zones to the North and West still have much Welsh speaking. Being a picturesque place where people buy holiday homes usually acts to preserve local culture as long as local people can find jobs in tourism. Of course, like in French Corsica, if this doesn’t provide enough economically – and in more ‘rural’ areas tourism tends to not produce much revenue – it can be a push for young people out of the area into other parts of the country where they lose thier language and culture. And yet with remote working and anti-urbanism movements now you might just find the majority of English in a few years will be coming for their first home – as indeed many retirees already are.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Suzy O'Shea
Suzy O'Shea
1 year ago

The only way to hit people with second homes is in their pockets. Venice suffers from the same problem. So all holiday lets or second homes have to pay a hefty purchase tax, and double the utility bills and council tax bills.

Monies raised from such taxation could be put towards giving local essential workers on low incomes long soft loans at fixed interest rates to help them to buy locally!

Henry VII Tudor knew how heavy taxes could change behaviour and he was Welsh too!

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
1 year ago
Reply to  Suzy O'Shea

“The only way to hit people with second homes is in their pockets. Venice suffers from the same problem.”
sounds like Venice has too many willing sellers. But no, rich people who can afford homes in Venice can also afford the taxes. Perhaps a campaign to convince Venetians not to sell, or to sell to essential workers on low incomes, would be a better idea. Why let them off the hook? Seems like it’s the greed of those who own and are willing to sell homes in Venice for exorbitant prices that causes essential workers not to be able to buy locally.

Last edited 1 year ago by Annette Kralendijk
Kremlington Swan
Kremlington Swan
1 year ago

I am with you all the way on this, even though I am mostly (I think) English. Because what has happened in Wales has happened on larger scale in the rest of the UK.
It is, of course, down to possibly the simplest equation ever devised:
Excess demand over supply = inflation, excess supply over demand = deflation.

For decades in the UK we have suffered with too much demand for the supply of housing, and that has everywhere led to housing being taken out of the reach of the person operating within the average income bracket.

Thank you freedom of movement and under-policed borders, and thank you for turning the UK into a property bank for the global elite.
The peculiar blindness of the Left, unfortunately, allows them to complain about the situation in Wales but reject out of hand any similar complaint made about the situation England.

Notice that in Wales the proposed solution is not to cover every square inch with new affordable homes. Wouldn’t want to ruin the place, after all.