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Think-tank calls for tougher tax powers on empty homes

A leading think-tank wants greater tax controls for local authorities to help tackle the growing problem of long-term empty properties and the UK’s wider housing crisis.

A report by the Institute for Public Policy Research, published yesterday, shows there are around 635,000 empty homes across England, with 216,000 unoccupied for six months or longer. More than 60,000 home remain empty in London.

The IPPR says local authorities should be given powers to remove the existing 50 per cent cap on empty homes council tax premiums and determine their own banded premiums for long-term empty dwellings.

The report also proposes allowing local authorities to set their own definition of what a long-term empty property is. This would allow councils to shorten the timeframe that defines eligibility for the empty home council tax premium.

Currently, long-term empty properties are defined within a two-year threshold in England, compared with one year in Scotland. Properties must be inhabited for just six weeks before any empty period can be reset, compared with three months in Scotland.

The proposals are designed to tackle the housing crisis and get more people into their own homes, as opposed to generating additional tax revenues, the report says. Varying calculations suggest the reforms, if enacted, could raise between £110m and £215m annually.

IPPR researcher Bill Davies says: “Long-term empty homes are a luxury England cannot afford. With rising house prices, substantial levels of homelessness and lengthy housing waiting lists, empty homes are making the housing crisis worse.

“Local authorities should be allowed more discretion to tax long-term empties appropriately and to ensure that those holding onto empty property contribute more to the costs of providing homes without them. A more flexible approach to council tax powers is part of the solution to Britain’s housing crisis.”

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