Housing crisis UK: the areas with the highest rates of second homes in England, Scotland and Wales

Second homes are a common sight in some local communities – here we reveal which areas in Britain have the highest rates of holiday homes.

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Picturesque Scottish islands and Welsh national parks are among those hardest hit by the rise in second home ownership, according to NationalWorld analysis.

Second homes make up more than one in 20 properties in places such as Gwynedd in Wales, which covers much of Snowdonia national park, and Scotland’s Argyll and Bute, home to the islands of Islay and Jura.

Concerns that holiday home owners are turning tourist hotspots into ghost towns have prompted crackdowns by governments across Britain this month.

In Wales, which has some of the highest rates of second home ownership in the country, councils will be able to set and collect council tax premiums on second homes and long-term empty properties at up to 300%, while in Scotland councils could have the powers to charge up to double the full rate of council tax on second homes. Housing Secretary Michael Gove also announced proposals to give communities in England greater control over short-term lets in tourist hotspots.

Second home ownership is on the rise, with the 2021 census showing 217,000 people in England and Wales regularly stayed at a holiday home in the UK, up from 180,000 in 2011, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Housing campaigners say the situation is currently “unsustainable” and is leaving local businesses unable to get staff, young people unable to get on the property ladder and even schools without children because people are being forced from their local communities.

Chris Bailey, national campaign manager at Action on Empty Homes, said: “What we are seeing with second homes is inequality writ large. Essentially some people are getting more homes and more people are left with nowhere to live. This is especially true in areas like the South West where deep-pocketed buyers from wealthier areas can outbid local families on average incomes, which are some of the lowest in the country.

“This just isn’t sustainable, because now we’re seeing local businesses unable to get staff, because no one earning the wages paid in areas like the hospitality business can actually afford to live anywhere nearby.”

Communities with the highest rates of second home ownership

Last year the Scottish government recorded more than 24,000 second homes, a rate of nine per 1,000 dwellings. Argyll and Bute, which is home to island communities on the west coast, was found to have the highest rate of second home ownership in Scotland with 63 per 1,000 dwellings – almost seven times the national average. Beauty spots in other rural areas were also highly affected, including Na h-Eileanan Siar, Orkney Islands, the Highlands and North Ayrshire.


Parts of Wales are even harder hit. There are more than 24,000 second homes across Wales, which works out as a national rate of 17 per 1,000 dwellings, according to Welsh government data for the 2023/24 period. Gwynedd, where holidaymakers have easy access to Snowdonia national park, was found to have a rate of 76 second homes per 1,000 dwellings – almost five times the national average.


Detailed statistics for England, gathered through the 2021 census, are due to be published later this year.

The English Housing Survey for 2018/19 estimated that people living in England had 451,000 second homes also in England - a 32% increase in five years. Two in five of these second homes (39%) were used as holiday homes, with a third (35%) used as an investment or to generate income, including holiday lets. The figures exclude properties rented out to permanent tenants.

The survey does not provide a localised breakdown but does provide an idea of which regions of the country are most affected by second home ownership. The South West was found to have the largest concentration of second homes in England with 27% of all second homes for holidaying purposes being found in the region, followed by the South East with 14%.


‘Hollowed out communities’

Last week (12 April) the UK government announced new proposals to give communities greater control over short-term lets in tourist hotspots. Under the proposals, planning permission would be required for an existing home to be used as a short term let. It said the measures would also “strengthen” the tourism sector. Mr Gove said last week that he was “determined” to ensure more people have access to local homes at affordable prices.

However, Mr Bailey said it is shutting the door after the horse has bolted because house prices have already risen out of reach for local people in tourist hotspots. He added that the tourism sector is also suffering as a result.

“This has a cumulative effect, because when communities become dominated by homes that aren’t in use for most of the year, they lose year-round services. Shops close, schools close. School closures in particular are a key sign of the impact of these non-homes. Communities without children aren’t just hollowed out, they are literally dead.”

‘Prioritise homes for living in’

Last Monday (17 April) Scotland’s First Minister, Humza Yousaf, also announced new plans to crackdown on second home ownership which could give councils powers to charge up to double the full rate of council tax on second homes in Scotland from April 2024.

Public Finance Minister Tom Arthur said: “We want everyone in Scotland to live in a safe, warm and secure home in the place that they want to be. To achieve that aim, we are taking a number of steps to prioritise homes for living in, including using the tax powers at our and local authorities’ disposal.”

The Welsh government also announced new measures on second home ownership earlier this month which allow local authorities to set and collect council tax premiums on second homes and long-term empty properties at up to 300% – up from 100% – with councils able to decide levels based on their local needs.

Rebecca Evans, Minister for Finance and Local Government, said: “The changes to the local tax system form one strand of a wider package of measures being introduced – encompassing the planning, property and taxation systems – to address the impact of second homes and unaffordable housing affecting many communities in Wales.”