The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, wants new powers to impose higher tax on empty homes – and even seize them if he wishes.
Khan is calling it a scandal that there are an estimated 30,000 long-term empty homes across London. The highest concentration are in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, where 1,600 empty properties would collectively be worth more than £2.2 billion.
He wants the government to devolve him the power to set higher rates of council tax on empty homes, including for what he calls “mega-mansions” in areas such as Westminster where he claims council tax is not currently a deterrent to prevent people leaving their properties empty.
The level of council tax for empty homes would be decided by local councils at whatever level they choose in order to make it an effective deterrent.
Khan – along with the Labour leaders of Westminster council – are also urging ministers to make it easier for councils to temporarily take over empty homes using established Empty Dwelling Management Orders, which have been restricted in recent years.
Khan cites one example in Knightsbridge where a property has been empty for almost a decade. Number 3 Trevor Square is a grade II listed, early nineteenth century, four-storey townhouse. The four-bedroom property, complete with two reception rooms, lies within the Knightsbridge Conservation Area. It is one of 1,100 empty homes in the City of Westminster which at current market rates could be worth £1.7 billion.
“It’s a scandal that so many much-needed homes across London lie vacant in the midst of a housing crisis. That’s why I’m working with Westminster city council to call on the government to implement a range of measures to crack down on long-term empty homes, including the devolution of powers so that local councils can set higher rates of council tax on vacant properties” says Khan.
“This would not only deter absentee international investment, but would free up housing stock across the capital for Londoners.”
He continues: “We are also urging ministers to make it easier to allow the temporary take-over of empty homes using Empty Dwelling Management Orders, which have been restricted in recent years.
“Over the last few years we’ve started building a record number of homes for Londoners, but there’s still a long way to go to fix the housing crisis and it will require much greater national investment. But ministers should start by making it easier for councils to bring long-term empty homes back into use so we can continue building a fairer and more prosperous London for everyone.”
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