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Carmarthenshire Politics West Wales

Cabinet approves a council tax premium for second and long-term empty homes

THE OWNERS of second homes in Carmarthenshire could face a doubling of council tax under proposals approved by cabinet.

The second home recommendation is for a 50% or a 100% council tax premium, subject to public consultation and approval by full council. This is slightly different to the recommendation outlined in the cabinet report.

Cabinet members also approved a council tax premium recommendation for owners of long-term empty homes.

Owners of properties which have been empty for one to two years would pay a 50% premium, increasing to 100% for those which have been empty for two to five years. There would be a further hike to 200% for properties empty for five years or more.

Carmarthenshire’s Plaid Cymru-Independent authority has held back from imposing a council tax premium on second homes, despite concerns about their impact on the availability and affordability of properties in hotspot areas, until regulatory changes had been made in Wales.

After the new recommendations were approved, council leader Darren Price said: “This is the start of that journey.”

Nine of Wales’s 22 local authorities have a second homes council tax premium of varying levels, while 11 have a premium for long-term empty homes.

As of April this year, premiums as high as 300% can be charged on second homes.

There was very little discussion by cabinet members after Cllr Alun Lenny, who has the finance portfolio, set out the new regulatory landscape.

This includes the criteria for self-catering accommodation being liable for business rates, instead of council tax, altering from April.

Currently, properties available to let for at least 140 days, and that are actually let for at least 70 days, pay rates rather than council tax.
The change will increase these thresholds to being available to let for at least 252 days and actually let for at least 182 days in any 12-month period.

Carmarthenshire has around 1,060 second homes but only 860 of them, for various reasons, are likely to be eligible for a council tax premium.

On empty homes, Cllr Lenny said councils had responsibility and powers to bring them back into use but that it was often more desirable to deal with owners informally.

Carmarthenshire has around 2,310 empty homes, of which 1,310 have been empty for more than a year and therefore would be liable for a new premium.

Neither the second home or long-term empty home premium would be imposed prior to April 2024.

A member of staff at Clee Tompkinson Francis estate agents, Carmarthen, said he didn’t think the second homes premium would deter buyers of more expensive properties but that it might put off those with a terraced second home worth £150,000, for example.

He said he appreciated local people needed houses to live in, but he said people with second homes had a beneficial impact by spending money in local restaurants and cafes.

“Commercial enterprises need the money,” he said. There would be a knock-on effect, he said, if that income was cut.

The report before cabinet said some some research noted positive impacts of second homes, but that more recent findings challenged the extent of this.

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