Worcester MP Robin Walker has spoken out in support of the Government’s planned legislation to increase the council tax premium local authorities can impose on long-term empty homes.

The second reading of the Council Tax (Empty Dwellings) Bill will take place next Monday (23rd April), and comes as the latest figures show an increase in the number of vacant homes in Worcester – with the Worcester City Council district now having the highest empty stock of the six local authority districts in Worcestershire. The full figures for the county can be seen below:

  2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Bromsgrove 1,018 1,000 1,018 963 934 875 695 822
Malvern Hills 1,176 1,119 1,158 963 1,028 1,042 894 1,041
Redditch 792 858 762 711 742 720 546 625
Worcester 1,216 1,261 1,369 1,214 1,174 1,180 1,204 1,274
Wychavon 1,392 1,322 1,346 1,201 1,204 1,219 1,170 1,271
Wyre Forest 1,509 1,423 1,307 1,354 1,404 1,216 1,178 1,196

 

The figures show the importance of dealing with the city’s empty homes. Robin first campaigned on the issue in 2011 and championed a change in the law in 2013, when local authorities in England were given the discretion to charge a premium of up to 50% on ‘long-term empty dwellings’ – that is, homes that have been unoccupied and substantially unfurnished for at least two years. The premium is in addition to the usual council tax charge that applies to the property.

The new Bill increases the premium’s maximum level to 100%. Decisions on whether to apply a premium, and the exact rates to be charged, will remain a matter for individual local authorities, which will take into account local circumstances.

Speaking ahead of the Bill’s second reading, Local Government Minister Rishi Sunak MP said:

“Doubling the cap on the premium supports the Government’s wider commitment to fixing our broken housing market, and will allow local authorities to strengthen the incentive for owners of empty homes to bring them back into use.”

Speaking in support of the proposed changes, Robin said:

“There is no silver bullet to fix our broken housing market – we need action on all fronts. There is a shortage of affordable housing in this country and in our city, and tackling the issue of empty homes – while also seeking to ensure that we respect the rights of property-owners – is part of the solution.”

“Time and time again, local residents who feel locked out of buying their own home or who have spent too long on housing association waiting lists have contacted me to express their anger and frustration at seeing houses in their area left empty to decay for years. I completely understand that frustration, which is why I first called for action to be taken on this front in 2011.”

“The changes introduced in 2013 had begun to make a difference as we saw vacant property figures fall. But it seems that momentum was not maintained after Labour and the Greens took over the running of Worcester City Council in 2016 and the number of homes left empty shot back up.”

“Earlier this year I challenged the city council to do more to ensure the delivery of affordable homes after Worcester missed out on millions of pounds of potential funding from the Government’s New Homes Bonus. Now we are set to give local authorities another weapon in their armoury to help boost the supply of housing without encroaching on our green belt. I hope to see this Bill attract support from all sides of the House and – if passed into law – I very much expect to see it used by the city council to drive down this worrying rise in empty homes.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

To read the Government guidance on the empty homes premium, please see: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/194389/Empty_home_premium_guidance_-_May.pdf

For the full data tables on local housing stock, see: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/live-tables-on-dwelling-stock-including-vacants

For details on Robin’s previous empty homes campaign, see: https://www.walker4worcester.com/articles/view_detail.php?id=ca9ca535a453c1e17048cbd1bd88063a

For details of Robin’s February 2018 statement on affordable housing delivery in Worcester, see: https://www.walker4worcester.com/local-mp-welcomes-funding-to-encourage-affordable-house-building-but-warns-council-must-do-more-to-deliver/

For more of Robin’s recent statements on housing, see:

https://www.walker4worcester.com/walker-hails-first-wave-of-infrastructure-funding-that-will-get-britain-building/

https://www.walker4worcester.com/robin-walker-mp-hails-budget-announcements-to-increase-supply-and-access-to-housing

https://www.walker4worcester.com/red-alert-over-collapse-in-new-affordable-housing-under-labour-2/

https://www.walker4worcester.com/walker-urges-britain-to-build-on-worcesters-housing-successes/

https://www.walker4worcester.com/6780-families-in-worcester-will-now-have-the-opportunity-to-buy-their-housing-association-home/