Councils urge Lords to back new powers on empty homes

Peers to debate giving councils the power to increase the empty homes premium thresholds on council tax bills.

empty homes

Thousands of empty properties across England could be brought back into use if councils are allowed to increase the rate of extra council tax on empty homes, local government leaders say.

The LGA 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% up to 100%.

For homes empty for between 5-10 years, councils would be able to increase the premium by up to 200% and up to 300% 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 working with voluntary groups, private owners and government bodies to bring properties back into use – 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.

“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% of the receipts of any Right to Buy homes that are sold to boost the supply of genuinely affordable homes with the necessary infrastructure.”

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 councils to double the council tax premium on ‘long-term empty dwellings’, by increasing it from 50% to 100%.

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.

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