Councils in England are to get stronger powers to tackle the empty homes crisis and will be able to charge extra tax on properties left empty for many years as part of a Government crackdown.
Currently there are just over 200,000 homes empty for six months or more in England, compared to 300,000 in 2010 and this number has reduced dramatically since 2013 after councils were given powers to charge a 50% premium on council tax bills on homes empty for two years or more.
Now James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Housing, has announced plans to allow local authorities to triple the council tax on homes left empty for five to 10 years and quadruple it on those empty for more than a decade. Homes which have been empty for between two and five years would still be subject to the council tax bill being doubled under the proposal.
‘We’re determined to do everything we can to ensure our communities have the housing they need. That’s why we’re giving councils extra flexibility to increase bills and incentivise owners to bring long-standing empty homes back into use,’ said Brokenshire.
‘By equipping councils with the right tools to get on with the job, we could potentially provide thousands more families with a place to call home. Councils will be able to use funds from the premium to keep council tax levels down for hard working families,’ he added.
He confirmed that the vast majority of councils have introduced 50% premiums on long term empty homes. Where councils have applied the premium consistently every year, there has been a 9% per cent fall in the number of homes being charged the premium.
To ensure the proposed new powers are not used to unfairly punish those facing difficult circumstances, the Government has also announced that it will publish revised guidance for councils on the use of premiums. This will also take into account issues relating to low demand areas and ensure it does not hinder complex regeneration schemes.
The move is one of a range of measures introduced by the Government to fix the country’s broken housing market. Through an ambitious package of long term reform and targeted investment, the Government aims to make sure that communities have the homes they need.