Legislation offers progress on England’s empty homes
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Councils across England are looking to utilise the Government’s recently passed Levelling Up and Regeneration Act to help them get empty homes back into use.

The Act will allow councils to charge double the rate of council tax on properties that have been empty for at least a year. This higher levy, due to be implemented from April, will be accompanied by increased rates of tax payable on furnished second homes and properties that have been left vacant for more than five and 10 years.

Speaking to The Financial Times, Helen Dennis, Labour cabinet member for new homes and sustainable development at Southwark council in London, said that, while the Government’s plans were a step in the right direction, more action was needed.

“We’ve got a housing crisis. And so where we can bring properties back into use, we want to do that as soon as possible,” she said. “Government policy is really prohibitive at the moment… We need more resources and more tools.”

Brighton and Hove City Council is another local authority that intends to implement the new measures as soon as feasible. Speaking last month, the council’s finance chief Nigel Manvell said the plan was to incentivise “behavioural change” by homeowners and landlords.

Cllr Gill Williams, chair of Brighton and Hove’s Housing and New Homes Committee, added: “This won’t solve all the problems, but it will certainly go some way to entice people to bring these empty homes back to life and help thousands of people to have a decent home.”

She added that the council could use devolved powers to create a registration scheme for the estimated 4,000 short-term holiday lets in the city.

Cllr Steve Pitt, leader of the Liberal Democrat administration in Portsmouth, also highlighted the potential benefits of the proposals to local authority budgets.

“By introducing this policy we’re able to bring much-needed additional income into the council [and] ensure that more people are able to secure homes locally,” he said.

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