Call for council tax hike to tackle empty homes

TOWN halls should be given powers to add up to £150 extra to council tax bills for empty homes to encourage owners to bring them back into use, according to a Tory MP.

Colne Valley MP Jason McCartney is pressing for more action to tackle the large number of homes which sit empty while developers seek more green field sites to build on. He has been backing a campaign by TV presenter and Restoration Man host George Clarke, to bring the nation’s 350,000 empty homes back into use.

They are seeking to convince Ministers to set up a small loan fund which could help fund the transformation.

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He also led a House of Commons debate pressing Ministers for action.

In 2010 there were 92,819 empty homes in Yorkshire and the Humber alone, which is enough to satisfy the region’s housing needs for nearly four years.

“There are lots of reasons why homes are empty – it could be because they are just rack and ruin, it could be because they are for sale and nobody can find a buyer or because of probate,” said Mr McCartney.

“We have also been talking about giving councils the power to put £150 on council tax on a property that’s been empty for more than 12 months.

“It would concentrate the minds of the owners but it would be discretionary.

“Councils wouldn’t have to introduce it but they would be able to do it if they wanted to.”

He added: “It’s ridiculous to go around building on greenfield sites on the outskirts of communities when there are empty properties and cleared sites all ready to go. An existing property is part of a community already. There are 7,000 empty homes in Kirklees – they won’t necessarily fulfil all the need for homes but they will go a big part of the way to doing so.”

The Government has sought to encourage councils to bring empty properties back into use through its New Homes Bonus, giving them a cash incentive to get them occupied again.