Friday, 27 February 2015

Councils should 'quadruple' tax on empty homes

The UK government’s empty homes tsar has said councils should be able to quadruple the council tax on vacant properties as a punishment to owners who leave them derelict.

George Clarke, who was appointed to advise the government on empty homes in April 2012, told delegates at the Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru conference today that he wanted to see greater sanctions for people who let homes sit empty.

‘I want to impose a penalty of council tax on empty homes,’ he said. ‘There is a way out now, people haven’t got an excuse. You’ve got low cost loan funds and empty homes officers so there is the willingness to do something.

‘It’s unpopular, but I want to quadruple the council tax on homes.’

He also spoke about the need to use the country’s existing homes, rather the build new ones.

‘We need to think differently about how we bring empty homes back into the community,’ he said.

‘I’m not against new build, I’m pro new build, but it’s a mess. We’re still building houses in the same way we did 100 years ago. It’s all so slow and takes a long time. We need to think about innovative ways of building houses.’

The Welsh Housing Bill, which is due to be published later this year, will contain a section on how to deal with the country’s empty homes.

Readers' comments (19)

  • Gavin Rider

    I don't think it is appropriate to do this through Council Tax. Council Tax is a tax for the provision of local services, it is not a penalty system.

    What we need is a change in tax law in general to tax the ownership of housing that is not being used as the owner's primary residence.

    This would result in all investment in property other than one's own home being less lucrative. It would reduce Buy-to-Let investments and second home ownership, or raise useful revenue from them that could be put towards providing new affordable homes.

    Making property a less attractive investment vehicle would also encourage people to switch their investment back into more conventional media such as stocks and shares, which would give British industry a boost.

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  • The guy is a numpty.

    His grasp of the realities of the housing market is non-existent.

    I'd rather tax the hot air that comes out of his mouth. That would probably raise quite a lot, or at least encourage him to keep it shut!

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  • Joe Halewood

    Yet 1m empty properties paying £4320 each in council tax (latest figs I can see avg Ctax is £1440) is £4.32bn and the bedroom tax could be abandoned

    Only a variant of my argument to reduce single property dwellers 25% discount down to 20% or abandon altogether

    Though that all asumes the government wants to save money for the public purse at all costs which they clearly dont...unless it doesnt involve owners...they vote after all!

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  • Gavin Rider

    Council Tax is a tax for the provision of local services, it is not a penalty system.

    There is no justification whatsoever for charging a single occupant of a property the same amount for public services as a family of four, because he cannot possibly use the same amount of services.

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  • Chris

    Unfortunately, when you have lunatic government advisors and supporters chomping at the bit to impose penalty rents you will equally gets ones coming forward with suggestions such as this one.

    If the property has no prospect of being bought back into use by the owner then it should be forfit, simples, end of, and then put to use to house those in desparate need of a home. If, at some later point it is discovered that the owner should not have lost the property, there is no harm done, it's not as though it has been demolished or they have been taxed out of their own home.

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  • owners of empty properties should be criminalized. If a property is empty for more than a year the owner should be prosecuted. If I as a citizen create a situation that attracts crime, I would be punished by the law in no time. Empty properties attract squatters. Now that squatting is a crime - an empty property who has been empty for too long should be considered as attracting time and their owners prosecuted. Imagine how much money the government could save by having less squatters in jail if there were less empty properties - and many of potential squatters would not end up squatting and getting a criminal record and ending up in jail at taxpayers expenses.

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  • The property market is a strange fish, adequate and safe housing is a universal need, it is in short supply, houses are to live in, and having a Housing Market as a prime driver of the economy as these numpties seem to want, is counter productive at best Pricing people out of homes in any way, is crazy.

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  • Gavin Rider - yes also reduce house prices which will help many in stepping on the housing ladder.

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  • Evan Owen

    Why the obsession with empty homes? In my area they declare houses for sale as 'empty' and appear to be genuinely surprised when the 'empty' house is sold and somebody moves in thereby filling the 'empty' home.

    In another case the home needs upwards of £50,000 spending on it and still they are scratching their heads wondering why a 'free loan' of £10,000 won't get the home filled with people.

    One 'empty' home was improved and is now let but the owner tells me when the 5 years is up the house goes on the open market for a quick sale thanks to the 'free loan'.

    Now we have social landlords looking for one and two bed accommodation for the tenants who will be 'taxed' because they have an 'empty' bedroom.

    The only 'empty' thing I see is the 'policy box' of LPAs and government, bereft of any ideas other than preventing development.

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  • Daedalus

    Please be warned in advance, the following paragraph is intended to be read as an ironic or sarcastic manner.

    Sure, let's make people pay for having the audacity to own a property which they do not need to make use of for the time being (please note the word "own" which implies certain rights over what happens to the property. Then let's force people who do less than 4,000 miles per year to allow any passer-by to use their car. If they don't cook at least 7 meals per week we should allow anybody to enter their home and use their kitchen. If they haven't sat out in their garden in the last six months let's declare their garden as common land for the use any anybody who chooses.

    See where I am going with this? Marxism is not dead.

    Just in case you think I am talking out of self interest I do not and never will own a second home. Owning a single home is touch-and-go!

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