‘It’s cultural genocide by wire transfer’: Welsh speakers campaign against second homes | Wales
The village of Llandudoch, Pembrokeshire, or St Dogmaels, stands picturesquely on the banks of a gentle bend in the River Teifi and has a crumbling abbey, cozy pubs and great fishing spots.
But 16-year-old Minna Elster Jones doesn’t have time for her postcard looks. “I wish this place wasn’t as pretty as it is, so Instagrammable,” she said. “This is my home and the home of my ancestors. But I feel that the place – and our language – is lost, taken from us. We are exploited.
Minna is furious that the pleasant appearance of the village means that most of the houses in the village are now shelters for wealthy foreigners, vacation homes or Airbnbs. “Unless I win the lottery, I wouldn’t have a chance to buy here. My culture, my ethnic origin, my language are in danger.
The sensitive topic of second or holiday homes and their impact on Welsh culture and language is high on the political agenda in Wales.
More than 1,000 Welsh-speaking activists demonstrated in the Senedd, the Welsh parliament, in Cardiff over the weekend. A petition arguing that people who are excluded from their local communities are violating the centerpiece of Wales Act on the welfare of future generations collected more than 5,000 signatures.
Senedd’s housing committee began gathering evidence for a second home inquiry on Wednesday and the Welsh government is set to announce details of its plans to deal with what it considers a “crisis “, including an action plan to counter the impact on the language. Figures released by the Welsh government this week revealed that there had been a 45% increase in second homes in Pembrokeshire since 2017-18.
This means that places like Llandudoch are on the front lines. Signs appear on residents’ gates and fences stating ‘second homes kill communities’, and membership in the campaign for an independent Wales, YesCymru, is increasing.
“You can feel the community changing around you,” said Terwyn Tomos, retired principal of the village school. At the time of the 2001 census, half of the villagers spoke Welsh, but in 2011 had decreased to 44%. Tomos said it wouldn’t surprise him if it was 40% or less now. A cruel irony is that there is enormous interest in learning Welsh, but the communities where it is spoken the most, like Llandudoch, are being torn apart. Tomos bemoans the struggle of culturally important groups such as the Welsh speaking drama society who have had to relocate to find an audience. “A lot of people are worried,” he said.
Jared and Michelle Brock, who have a newborn baby, have received an eviction notice. Their owner wants to sell his two-bedroom house in Llandudoch for the best part of £ 250,000 or rent it out as an Airbnb. “We have no place to rent within a 30 minute drive,” Jared said.
He pointed out that there were around 4,000 people on the waiting list for social housing in Pembrokeshire – almost exactly the same number of second homes. ” Something has to be done. “
Ffred Ffransis, a leading member of the pressure group Cymdeithas and Iaith Gymraeg (the Welsh Language Society), said the problem was being supercharged by ‘theft’ from cities caused by Covid, while Brexit prompted people who might have bought a second home in France or Spain to opt for the Pays de Wales instead.
Ffransis said: “All of these trends have wrecked the housing market for the local population in many areas and we are seeing population displacement at a level probably never seen anywhere in peacetime. It is increasingly clear that there will be no Welsh speaking communities left within a decade. It’s cultural genocide by wire transfer.
Cymdeithas yr Iaith wants the Welsh government to give local authorities more control over the housing market, such as the power to set stricter town planning rules that make it more difficult to turn houses and apartments into second homes and the possibility to set a cap on the number of them.
Minna’s mother, Helen Elster Jones, said she found it upsetting to walk down the main street and hear a lot more English than Welsh. “It’s painful. I don’t want to feel mad at new people, I’m not a dragon that monopolizes Wales, but it gnaws.