Housing

A new housing coalition wants more council tax power to tackle empty homes

Organisations from across the social, private and local authority housing sectors are eyeing investment to bring 205,000 dwellings back into use

Empty homes

A newly formed cross-sector commission is calling on the government to give local authorities more powers to raise the council tax premium for long-term empty homes

The government launched its Empty Dwellings Bill, which gets its third reading in the House of Lords today, in March, pledging to double the council tax premium paid by landlords of long-term empty homes. Speaking at the launch of the bill, Richmond MP and housing minister Rishi Sunak insisted that the “new power will equip councils with the tools they need to encourage owners of long-term empty properties to bring them back into use “.

But the Local Government Association (LGA) is urging the government to include amendments that beef up councils’ powers to allow an escalating charge from 2020.

As a result, councils would be able to up the charge to 200 per cent for homes empty for five years and 300 per cent of ten years in a bid to bring dwellings back into use and solve the housing crisis.

Cllr Richard Watts, chair of the LGA’s Resources Board, said: “When we face a chronic housing shortage across the country it is wrong for so many homes to be left empty. Councils work hard to address the issue but the existing powers open to them are complex and difficult to use,” he said. “All councils should be able to borrow to build and keep 100 per cent of any Right to Buy homes that are sold to boost the supply of genuinely affordable homes with the necessary infrastructure.”

The move comes as campaigning group Empty Homes launches a nine-strong Coalition for Community Investment of organisations from across the social, private and local authority housing sectors to tackle the problem. Arla Propertymark, Crisis, the Federation of Master Builders, Locality as well as the National Community Land Trust Network, National Housing Consortium, National Housing Federation and Residential Landlords Association have teamed up to call for change. The coalition, which launched with a House of Lords event earlier today, is hoping that the change will stem the rising tide of long-term empty homes.

The Big Issue has been calling for empty homes to be brought back into use as an answer to the housing crisis since 2015 when we launched our Fill ’Em Up campaign.

Empty Homes campaign manager Chris Bailey 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. Yet current enforcement powers have offered few answers to the areas where this problem is most concentrated, in England’s under-invested communities.”

Image: Lydia/Flickr

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