Lords urged to support rise in council tax on empty homes

18 Jul 18

Council leaders have urged the Lords to back a bill to double council tax premiums on empty homes in England in order to tackle a “chronic housing shortage”.

Councils should be given the power to increase the empty homes premium on council tax bills from 50% to 100% on properties that have been empty from two to five years, according to a bill supported by the Local Government Association.

Amendments to the Rating (Property in Common Occupation) and Council Tax (Empty Dwellings) bill would also mean councils could increase the premium by 300% on homes left empty for 10 years or more.  The premium on properties left empty between five and 10 years would rise by up to 200%.

Richard Watts, chair of the LGA’s resources board, said: “At a time when we face a chronic housing shortage across the country, it is wrong for so many homes to be left empty.

“Providing councils with the ability to charge more for empty homes would be a hugely positive measure which will enable councils to incentivise owners of long-term empty homes to bring them back into use.”

Amendments to the bill will be voted on in the House of Lords today.

The LGA said that the majority of long-term empty properties are privately owned, meaning that councils must work with voluntary groups, private owners and government bodies to bring properties back into use.

This includes providing advice and information, grants and loans and levying the existing empty homes premium through council tax, the LGA said.

Watts called on councils to “play a leading role” in solving the housing crisis and added that councils should be able to borrow to build, and keep 100% of receipts on right-to-buy homes sold to boost the supply of genuinely affordable homes.

Chris Bailey spokesman for Empty Homes, a chairty group in this area, said: “At a time when across England over 205,000 homes stand long term empty and for the first time in a decade this number is rising, it is welcome to see local authorities focus on this huge waste of valuable housing resources.”

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has been contacted for comment.

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