Havering could introduce empty house tax to alleviate housing crisis
PUBLISHED: 11:38 19 September 2014 | UPDATED: 11:38 19 September 2014
The housing crisis, Havering's budget problems and, according to one councillor, infestations of rabbits and rats could all be alleviated by a tax increase on empty houses.
A proposal for a 50 per cent council tax rise on households that remain empty for more two years will be investigated following Wednesday’s council meeting.
Members voted after the Havering Town Hall debate in favour of producing a report and holding a public consultation on imposing an “empty house premium”.
The leader of the council, Cllr Roger Ramsey, (Conservative, Emerson Park) said that, with 372 vacant houses in the borough, “something like £100,000” could be raised through the premium.
He said the idea, which would bring Havering in line with 25 other London boroughs, would be “a step forward” but urged discretion in applying the tax to complex cases such as Armed Forces members or people going through probate.
Residents’ Association leader Cllr Clarence Barrett, (Cranham) proposed the idea, saying: “The principle motive of the premium is not revenue raising but easing pressure in the local housing market.”
Housing chief Cllr Damian White (Con, Squirrels Heath) said that the tax could free up homes if the absent owners decide to sell rather than to pay it.
He said: “It could address the imbalance that’s stopping our young desperate families getting into the property market.”
The tax could also address environmental problems, Cllr Melvin Wallace (Con) said.
He gave the example of a property in his Squirrels Heath ward that has been left vacant and contains 20 rabbits and is infested with rats that are tormenting those who live nearby.
Members across the council chamber, apart from Cllr Jeff Tucker (Independent Residents’ Group, Rainham and Wennington) and those in UKIP, backed the Conservative amendment to hold the consultation.