Khan calls for ‘meaningful’ levy on high-value empty homes

Maximum premium in Westminster's top Band H is currently £688

Sadiq Kahn has requested extra freedom for London boroughs to ratchet up the empty home council tax levy on high-value properties.

The Mayor has written to the Government asking that councils should be able to set a “meaningful rate that would incentivise occupation”, or “at the very least” generate some more funds to help tackle the housing crisis.

Westminster’s top Band H is offered up as an example of the mismatch between multi-million pound values and an empty homes premium capped at £688 a year (50% of council tax).

The move is in response to a much-cited piece of research commissioned by City Hall last year, which saw academics from LSE and York University investigate the role of overseas investment in the capital’s property market. While the number of “entirely” empty homes was found to be very low overall, the researchers noted – somewhat predictably – that there were higher concentrations in prime locations.

Sadiq Khan said: “The housing crisis is the biggest challenge facing our city today and I’ve been honest with Londoners from the start – we won’t turn things round overnight.  This is going to be a marathon, not a sprint and we need to be able to take robust action to tackle it.

“In the midst of a housing crisis, just one home left unoccupied is one too many. That is why I will be working closely with boroughs like Westminster City Council to fight Londoners’ corner by calling for the Government to allow boroughs to charge a higher Council Tax on empty properties at a rate that makes a difference.”

The Leader of Westminster Council, Cllr Nickie Aiken: “I support the Mayor’s proposal for greater flexibility to be afforded to local authorities around the amount that could be levied on empty homes. Not only is it an important message to send out, it would also generate additional funds to be invested in our areas for the benefit of local residents. Along with the Mayor I have made it my priority to ensure that we have genuinely affordable housing in the heart of the capital.”

Ian Fletcher, Director of Real Estate Policy for the British Property Federation: “The Mayor’s suggestion that there should be a higher council tax premium on empty homes is worthy of consideration from Government, within the wider context of what is and what is not currently working to prevent empty properties.”

Hugh Bullock, who chaired the Overseas Investment Sub-Group of the Homes for Londoners Board overseeing the LSE/York research: “The Sub-Group has made a number of recommendations. Although the research found that the overall number of empty properties in London is low, I welcome this response of the Mayor to the recommendation concerning Council Tax.”