Thousands of empty properties across England could be brought back into use if councils are allowed to double the rate of extra council tax on empty homes, local government leaders say today.
The Local Government Association is urging peers to back an amendment to the Rating (Property in Common Occupation) and Council Tax (Empty Dwellings) Bill today (18 July) to give councils the power to increase the empty homes premium thresholds on council tax bills for homes left empty for between two and five years from 50 per cent to up to 100 per cent.
For homes empty for between 5 and 10 years, councils would be able to increase the premium by up to 200 per cent and up to 300 per cent for homes empty for 10 years or more.
Councils work to encourage owners of empty homes to bring their properties back into use. As the majority of long-term empty properties are privately owned, this means also working 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.
Our national housing shortage is one of the most pressing issues we face. The last time this country built the homes it needed each year, in the 1970s, councils built more than 40 per cent of them.
The LGA said the Government also therefore needs to ensure all areas of the country can borrow to invest and keep 100 per cent of receipts from properties sold through Right to Buy to replace homes and reinvest in new housing.
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.
“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.”
1. The Rating (Property in Common Occupation) and Council Tax (Empty Dwellings) Bill will have its Third Reading in the House of Lords today. Clause 2 would allow local authorities to double the council tax premium on ‘long-term empty dwellings’, by increasing it from 50 per cent to 100 per cent. The premium is in addition to the usual council tax charge applicable to that property, and applies to homes that have been unoccupied and substantially unfurnished for two years or more. Our full briefing can be read here.
2.The LGA, which represents 370 councils across England and Wales, has published a new report “Housing, Planning and Homelessness” which sets out how the Government can use its forthcoming Green Paper to empower councils to trigger the renaissance in council housebuilding needed to fix our broken housing market.
Moving the conversation on
We have published a series of papers, commissioned by LGA boards, which start the new thinking around building the case for long term, sustained investment in local government as well as laying out the positive outcomes this would deliver for the country.