Plea for more tax on empty houses

Published: Sunday 28th December 2014 by The News Editor

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Councils should be given tougher powers to tax long-empty properties in a bid to ease the housing shortage, a think tank said.

Extra council tax could be charged after as little as a year – half the current time – and a cap restricting the levy to 50% of the usual bill lifted.

The reforms, suggested in a report by the centre-left Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), would bring English authorities in line with those in Scotland.

It said turning the financial screw on owners should bring back into use some of the 635,000 empty homes across England – including 216,000 unoccupied for more than six months.

If owners failed to respond then the £110 million that would be raised from a 70% levy could be invested to help the local housing market.

Since April 2013, town halls have been able to charge 150% of the usual council tax on homes left “unoccupied and substantially unfurnished” for more than two years.

Under the IPPR proposals, they could charge more and sooner – and insist that a property be occupied for at least the three months required north of the border before the clock is restarted, rather than the present six weeks.

IPPR researcher Bill Davies said: “Long-term empty homes are a luxury England cannot afford.

“With rising house prices, substantial levels of homelessness and lengthy housing waiting lists, empty homes are making the housing crisis worse.

“Short-term vacant properties are a natural part of the housing market. Properties will be without residents as estates are disposed of, as sellers await buyers, or as landlords await new tenants.

“But when properties are left empty over the long-term it increases pressure on rents and house prices.

“Local authorities should be allowed more discretion to tax long-term empties appropriately and to ensure that those holding on to empty property contribute more to the costs of providing homes for those without them.

“A more flexible approach to council tax powers is part of the solution to Britain’s housing crisis.”

Published: Sunday 28th December 2014 by The News Editor

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