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Birmingham to charge double council tax for owners of empty homes

Birmingham City Council passed proposals this week to charge owners of long-term empty homes in Birmingham double the amount of council tax.

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced in the 2017 Budget that local authorities could ‘incentivise’ owners of empty properties to put them back into use by charging them a council tax premium.

Birmingham has 1888 empty properties and over 12,000 people on council house waiting lists, with Cllr Sharon Thompson, cabinet member for homes and neighbourhoods saying that if all affected properties were brought back into use, the authority would be able to reduce their housing register number by 15%.

A property is classed as long term empty after six months. However, the council has confirmed the empty property premium would not be charged until the property has been empty for over two years.

Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham City Council, said: ‘When you consider the size of the homelessness issue that Birmingham faces, it is only right we look at every possible option to get empty homes occupied once again.

‘The pressure this places upon us to look at costly alternatives such as bed and breakfast accommodation means those who own vacant properties should do their bit to help.

‘This plan will go some way towards doing that.’

Government data released in November revealed there are now over 227,000 long-term empty homes across the country, rising at twice the rate seen in 2016/2017.

Inner London saw a rise of over 14%, while outer London the number rose by 8.2%. Across the capital, over 22,000 homes lie long-term empty.

The figures also painted a grim picture across the north, with Bradford having over 4000 empty homes which account for almost one in every 50 homes in the city.  Towns such as Grimsby, Hartlepool and Middlesborough also have around 1000 empty homes, respectively.

Chris Bailey of the charity Empty Homes welcomed the move from Birmingham but questioned the current Government definition of ‘long-term’ empty.

‘Birmingham is right to implement the new powers but the two years empty, which current legislation requires prior to the council tax premium kicking in, is too long to wait for action on homes left intentionally empty.

‘Property deteriorates, costs rise and neighbourhoods are blighted by such properties,’ he said.

Thomas Barrett
Senior journalist - NewStart Follow him on Twitter

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