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Empty Property

Communities and Local Government written question – answered on 24th November 2011.

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Photo of Mike Weatherley Mike Weatherley Conservative, Hove

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what plans he has to encourage local authorities to bring empty properties back into use.

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Minister for Housing

The Government published “Laying the Foundations—A Housing Strategy for England” on 21 November which sets out our plans for dealing with empty homes.

Through the affordable homes programme we have committed £100 million to bring empty homes back into use as affordable housing. We are making sure that community and self help groups have an opportunity to access this funding and take on this work alongside conventional housing providers. Detailed bidding guidance is available on the Homes and Communities Agency's website:

www.homesandcommunities.co.uk/ourwork/empty-homes

We have announced £50 million of additional funding to tackle some of the worst concentrations of empty homes. Tackling empty homes in these areas will require an intensive approach—refurbishing and reconfiguring homes, as well as improving the public realm and tackling wider issues in the local area.

We are consulting on technical reforms to council tax, including on proposals to give councils the flexibility to reduce or remove council tax relief on empty homes, and second homes. These reforms could allow councils to make up to a £20 a year reduction in the bill for a typical Band D property in England. The consultation also explores the proposition that councils should have local discretion to introduce a council tax premium on homes that have been empty for more than two years. All these measures would provide an additional fiscal incentive for owners to bring empty homes into use more quickly.

Under the New Homes Bonus local authorities can receive the same financial reward for bringing an empty home back into use as building a new one—so over £8,500 for a band D property. In year one of the New Homes Bonus just under 16,000 long term empty homes were brought back into use. This equates to a reward to local authorities of around £19 million.

The new Community Right to Reclaim Land will also assist communities to bring empty properties owned by public bodies back into use.

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