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Monday, May 28, 2012

Tackling empty properties

The Welsh Government housing white paper proposes a stick to encourage owners of long term empty homes to take up the assistance available to bring their property back into use. They suggest that after 12 months the local council should have the power to double the Council Tax payable on that home.

In my view 12 months is too short a period as this may not allow for the owner to sort out problems with succession or to carry out a complex renovation but that is something that can be sorted out as part of the consultation. The principle is correct, it is something I have been asking the Government to introduce for some time.

The Welsh Conservatives take a contrary view but it seems that they are not just going to be isolated in Wales on this issue. The Conservative/Liberal Democrat UK Coalition Government are considering a similar measure.

According to yesterday's Independent, UK Ministers believe that the system encourages second homeowners and landlords to leave properties empty and want to bring in measures to change all that.

They want to abolish mandatory discounts on holiday homes that are used only at weekends, and to impose an extra premium on properties left vacant for more than two years.

The paper says that across the UK, there are around a million empty homes, of which 720,000 are in England.  Ministers say this is equivalent to one home standing empty for every two families stuck on waiting lists:

Andrew Stunell, the Lib Dem communities minister, will confirm plans to stop forcing councils to give a discount. And he will push ahead with the "empty homes premium", which will allow local authorities to charge up to 50 per cent extra on council tax for homes vacant for more than two years

The details may be slightly different but for once both administrations are talking with one voice.
I agree with the points you make.
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