Sadiq Khan: London councils need more power to take back empty properties
The Mayor of London has today called on the government to devolve powers to local councils so they can set higher rates of council tax on vacant properties.
It comes as part of a bid to bring back empty flats and houses to the struggling London market.
“It’s a scandal that so many much-needed homes across London lie vacant in the midst of a housing crisis”, said Khan.
He wants the policy to act as a deterrent for landlords, often based abroad, who don’t care if their properties are empty or full.
Khan also wants to bring back the Empty Dwelling Management Orders, which allow councils to temporarily take over empty homes.
Their use was restricted a decade ago, under David Cameron. Now councils can only operate if a property has been left empty for two years, rather than for six months as it was beforehand.
The issue is painfully acute in London: there are £20bn worth of vacant properties across the capital, according to new data by City Hall.
The number of vacant properties is so high because many of them are “Buy to Leave” investments, which means that landlords bought the property with the intention of keeping it empty while waiting for its value to rise.
The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea sees the highest concentration of empty properties, with 1,600 of them worth collectively more than £2.2bn. The area is one of the most popular in London for foreign investors to buy property.
The number of empty homes is also high in Westminster, with 1,172 vacant properties; in Southwark, with 2,422 of them; and in Hackney, with 1,194.
Conversely, there are only 295 empty properties in the City of London.