Wakefield Council’s big decision whether to raise council tax to bring empty homes back into use

Denise Jeffery, Wakefield Council's Cabinet Member for Economic Growth and Regeneration, said it is important housing issue is tackled
Denise Jeffery, Wakefield Council's Cabinet Member for Economic Growth and Regeneration, said it is important housing issue is tackled

Wakefield Council’s senior Councillors will decide next week on whether to introduce changes to the council tax to bring empty homes back into use.

The proposed initiative aims to tackle the housing shortage by giving owners an incentive to take action.

Cabinet members will be asked to increase the Empty Homes Premium (EHP) from the current 50% of the council tax bill up to a maximum 300%. The premium, which applies to homes left empty and unfurnished for two years or more, is charged in addition to the basic council tax and would increase the longer the property stayed empty.

Cabinet members are also being asked to approve the removal of the EHP for new owners, who buy a house that is already paying the premium. To encourage people to move in sooner the premium would not be charged for three months, from the date of purchase.

Wakefield Council's Cabinet Member for Economic Growth and Regeneration, Coun Denise Jeffery, said: “With demand for housing increasing it is important that we tackle this issue.

“The figures show that the work we do is making a difference across our district and is helping to turn empty properties into much-need homes for single people, couples and families.

“Since introducing this premium we have reduced the number of properties that are left empty and given residents a place they can call home.

“We will consider these new plans at the meeting which go further and give people even more of an incentive to sell or buy an empty property.”

Amended legislation from central government allows councils to raise the EHP over time. Under the new proposals, which would take effect in April, the premium would rise to 100% for properties that have been unoccupied for two years or more.

In 2020 a property unoccupied for over five years would pay a 200 percent premium. A 300 percent premium would be introduced in 2021 for homes left empty for ten years or more.

Councillor Denise Jeffery added:  “As a Council we are proactive in helping owners to make their properties available to those in need of accommodation. We provide interest free loans, advice on selling and repairing a property as well as support in putting homes on the market..

The proposals will be discussed by Wakefield Council’s Cabinet on Tuesday February 12 at 10.30am. The meeting can be watched live, or later, on the Council’s www.wakefield.gov.uk/livestream website.