SWANSEA Council chiefs are keen to press ahead with plans to double council tax for second home owners, despite a backlash.
Just over 70% of respondents to a survey this summer – many of whom were second home owners – opposed any second home council tax premium, while 76% disagreed with a doubling of the charge. The authority also wants to double council tax for owners of properties which have been empty for more than 12 months.
Just over half of those who responded to the survey said they backed a new empty homes’ premium, but less than half felt it should be a 100% hike.
A decision on the proposals, which were first publicised in July, will be made by full council at a meeting on October 24.
Council leader Rob Stewart said: “What the council is aiming to do, in common with other local authorities in Wales, is to encourage more properties to be brought back into use for the benefit of local people looking for a decent place to live.”
He said council budgets were under “severe stress” at a time when pressure for more affordable homes had rarely been as great.
One opponent to the second home council tax idea said: “If our taxes are doubled we will simply sell and spend our vacation time elsewhere and so local businesses will suffer.”
Another said: “Owners of these properties already pay their fair share of taxes.” But another respondent, from Port Eynon, said: “Every house that comes up for sale is bought as a holiday home or rental. There are now no young people left in the village. “That is sad and outrageous.”
Swansea has around 1,100 second homes which would fall into the council tax premium bracket – the majority in Gower, Swansea West and Swansea Marina.
Nearly half of these are owned by people who live in the county, and are currently charged council tax at the normal rate.
There are also around 2,340 long-term empty properties in Swansea, whose owners currently pay half the full council tax charge after an exemption period of up to six months.
The new premiums would raise some £2.8 million per year, which the council would use to help reduce the council house waiting list, which presently stands at 3,900.
But the premiums would not be introduced straight away.
The second home premium would come into force in April 2021. The empty home premium would start in April 2020 but the six-month exemption period would remain, followed by a six months at normal council tax rate with the 100% premium kicking in after that. There could also be up to a year’s grace for owners actively marketing second homes or empty properties for sale or let.
Opponents of the empty home premium idea said the properties may only be empty because the owners couldn’t afford to refurbish them, while another said: “It is not up to the council to tell people how to use their private property.”
Cllr Andrea Lewis, cabinet member for homes and energy, said people who owned more than one property would not be affected if the house was occupied by a tenant, as the tenant would normally be liable for the council tax. Referring to the £2.8 million that could be raised, she said: “The Welsh Government is encouraging local authorities to plough back the funds into supporting work with households and rough sleepers seeking a place to live as well as supporting owners seeking to bring empty properties back into use and meet other housing needs.”