Nearly 1,000 homes in Greenwich borough have been left empty for more than two years, City Hall has revealed – with London’s mayor calling for councils to be able to charge limitless council tax to tackle the problem.
Over 34,000 homes across Greater London have been left empty for two or more years, with 962 of those in Greenwich. With an average home in the borough costing £450,000, this could mean £433 million worth of property is sitting empty.
Neighbouring Lewisham has 1,226 empty properties while Bexley has 572. The most empty properties are in Southwark, with 2,422 left unoccupied for two years or more.
In one case highlighted by City Hall, a house in Trevor Square, Knightsbridge, has been left empty for 10 years. The Grade II-listed townhouse could be worth £4.6 million.
Councils, including Greenwich, can currently charge a 100 per cent council tax surcharge on homes that have been left empty for two years, rising to 200 per cent after five years and 300 per cent after a decade.
Khan wants to see councils given the power to set higher rates, and to be able to increase them more quickly, to deal with what he called a “scandal”.
“I’m calling for the devolution of powers so that local councils can set higher rates of council tax on vacant properties,” he said. “This would not only deter absentee international investment, but would free up housing stock across the capital for Londoners.
“We are also urging ministers to make it easier to allow the temporary takeover 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.”
Adam Hug, the Labour leader of Westminster Council, which covers the Knightsbridge home, he believed the numbers in his borough were likely to be much higher than the 1,172 declared by their owners.
Conor O’Shea, of the campaign group Generation Rent, said: “As long as people are moving house or refurbishing properties we’ll always have some empty homes, but it’s particularly concerning that the number of long term empty homes in London has increased by 10,000 since 2019, at a time when rents have been surging to historic highs.
“We need to make it more difficult for owners to leave properties empty and deprive locals of much needed homes. A healthier supply of homes will dampen rents which are forcing people on ordinary incomes further out of London.”
A spokeswoman for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “Councils already have a raft of powers to bring empty properties back into use and we are clear they should be using them to deliver new homes for communities.”
She added that since 2010, the Government had reduced the number of long-term empty homes by more than 50,000.
Additional reporting by Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter
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