New legislation gives councils in England the power to take action against the owners of homes that lie empty for more than two years.
They are being given the power to double the council tax payable on properties in a move that Ministers hope will bring thousands of property onto the housing ladder for sale or to rent.
It is estimated that there are over 200,000 homes that have been empty for some considerable time. Some 216,000 have been empty for six months, 23,000 for five years and 11,000 for more than 10 years.
‘It is simply wrong that while there are 200,000 long term empty properties across the country thousands of families are desperate to secure a place to call home,’ said Local Government Minister Rishi Sunak.
‘This new power will equip councils with the tools they need to encourage owners of long term empty property to bring them back into use and at the same time tackle the harmful effect they have on communities through squatting, vandalism and anti-social behaviour,’ he added.
Since 2013 local authorities have been able to charge an extra 50% council tax and this now rises to 100% of homes empty for two years or more. But the rules mean they cannot levy the charge on homes that are on the market for sale or rent.
There are also exemptions which include an owner living in Armed Forces accommodation, annexes that are part of a main property, an owner going into care and homes empty due to probate.
The plan was announced by Chancellor Philip Hammond in his Autumn Budget statement. However, campaigners have warned that help is needed to get empty homes fit for habitation as many have fallen into disrepair.
A fifth of empty homes in England are in the North West, according to research from the National Housing Federation (NHF), much of them in areas of economic decline, lacking transport links and with few jobs.
‘It can’t be right to leave property empty when so many are desperate for a place to live. Empty properties in some areas are having a profound impact on local markets and those who need housing,’ said Ciaran Tully, the NHF’s external affairs manager for the North West.