Friday, 26 May 2017

Birmingham Council tops empty homes table

Councils in the north and the midlands have topped a government league table which shows the best authorities at bringing empty homes back into use.

Top of the list is Birmingham Council which has turned 2,151 vacant properties into homes over the past two years, according to official figures. England’s largest local authority landlord is followed closely by Manchester, which brought 2,118 homes back into use.

In total, councils in England have helped convert 38,000 long-term vacant properties into homes, the Communities and Local Government figures show.

Communities minister Don Foster hailed the figures as proof that the government’s new homes bonus was succeeding. Under the bonus scheme local authorities reward councils for bringing empty properties back into use by match funding the additional council tax raised on the new home for the following six years. Birmingham will receive £391,000 of bonus payment from the government for its efforts.

Mr Foster said he was ‘delighted’ about the bonus scheme’s positive start. ‘By making councils accountable to their residents, not to Whitehall, we are ensuring local taxpayers have the ability to check that money is being spent efficiently and decisions taken for the benefit of the communities.’

Meanwhile, two authorities are planning to revamp council tax discounts for people with second homes. Ealing and Camden councils have both said they want to abolish the council tax breaks which are currently available. From April next year all local authorities will be free to decide which properties should receive council tax breaks and exemptions.

Yvonne Johnson, cabinet member for finance and performance at Ealing said she wanted to discourage people from leaving homes vacant. ‘We have a desperate shortage of housing,’ she added.

Camden Council plans to charge residents 150 per cent council tax for second homes which are left empty for more than two years. ‘In Camden at the moment there are over a thousand homes that are just lying empty for investment’s sake, part of someone’s property portfolio,’ Theo Blackwell,  cabinet member for finance a the north London authority told the BBC.

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