Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst has hailed the new measures in the Rating (Property in Common Occupation) and Council Tax (Empty Dwellings) Bill to equip councils with powers to bring thousands of long-term empty homes back into use.
The new legislation will allow councils to charge double the rate of Council Tax on homes left empty for years, helping in the long term to free up properties for thousands of people and families looking for homes. Local authorities will be able to levy these additional charges on homes standing empty for 2 years or more, increasing the amount authorities can currently levy which stands at a 50% premium.
Whilst the number of homes empty for 6 months or longer remains substantially lower than when records began in 2004, when the figure was 318,642, the October 2017 figure of 205,293 is still considered far too high given the current housing shortage.
This latest move is one of a range of measures introduced by the government to fix the country’s broken housing market, and councils will be able to use funds from the premium to keep Council Tax levels down for working families. Through the New Homes Bonus scheme introduced in 2011, councils will earn the same financial reward for bringing an empty home back into use as for building a new one.
On the announcement Kelly Tolhurst said,
“This is a highly welcome measure from the government that will encourage thousands more homes to be freed up while also providing councils with potentially significant incomes over the next few years.
“While we should celebrate the number of long-term empty homes dropping by a third since 2010, there are still 200,000 vacant properties across the country which is becoming a real problem up and down the country.
“This is part of an ambitious package of long-term reform and targeted that will ensure communities have the homes they need and provide thousands of families with a place to call home.”