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Increase council tax on empty homes by up to 300%, LGA says

Empty homes in an HMR area of NewcastleThe Local Government Association has called on the Government to increase the rate of council tax on empty homes.

They believe that for homes empty between 5 and 10 years, councils should be able to increase the premium by up to 200% and up to 300% for homes that have been empty for 10 years or more.

As the majority of long-term empty properties are privately owned, councils currently work with voluntary groups, private owners and government bodies to try and bring properties back into use. This includes providing advice and information, grants and loans and levying the existing empty homes premium through council tax.

Cllr 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. Councils work hard to address the issue but the existing powers open to them are complex and difficult to use.

‘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.

‘Bringing empty homes into use is just one aspect of our housing problems.’

Responding to the LGA statement, 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.

‘Communities blighted by a spiral of decline where those with housing choices have often left, trapping those with none in poor quality, often privately rented accommodation. So while we welcome any focus by local authorities on the problem we believe that the answers are to be found in investment.’

The LGA also said the Government needs to ensure councils can keep 100% of receipts from properties sold through Right to Buy to replace homes and reinvest in new housing.

Last month the LGA published a study which predicted that councils’ ability to replace homes sold under Right to Buy will be all but eliminated within five years unless there is major reform of the scheme.

‘Councils need to play a leading role in solving our housing crisis. For that to happen, all councils should be able to borrow to build and keep 100 per cent of the receipts of any Right to Buy homes that are sold to boost the supply of genuinely affordable homes with the necessary infrastructure.’ added Cllr Watts.

 

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