Tax bill bid to fill empty homes

Coun Simon Blackburn
Coun Simon Blackburn
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MEASURES to reduce the number of long-term empty properties in Blackpool will see owners told to pay full council tax in future.

Town hall chiefs are recommending the current 50 per cent discount for properties left vacant for more than six months is scrapped.

It is hoped the move will be an incentive for more properties to be occupied, boosting housing provision and helping create stronger communities.

Owners would still be exempt from council tax for the first six months to enable renovations to be carried out, but the discount for long term empty properties would be axed.

This would affect around 1,450 properties in Blackpool which currently fall into this discount category.

It is also proposed to reduce the discount for second homes, which are properties which are furnished but unoccupied, from 50 per cent to 10 per cent, affecting around 761 properties.

Blackpool Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn said: “I’ve looked at the discounts that were in place for second homes and vacant properties and decided to make immediate changes.

“Increasing the council tax payments on these properties is designed to be an incentive to home owners to bring their vacant premises back into use which would be of benefit to the whole community.

“This is the first year these changes will be implemented so it’s hard to predict exactly what the impact will be but I’m confident it will successful in helping to reduce the number of empty properties we have in the town and the problems that come with them.”

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A report to councillors says: “If the cost of keeping a property empty rises, there is an added incentive to bring such properties back into use. Although many owners are already striving to dispose of long-term empty property which is proving difficult owing to the current slowdown in the housing market.

“While collection of full council tax from the owners of long term empty property would raise difficulties, it could encourage owners to either redouble their efforts to dispose of the property or, if possible, find tenants.”

Paul Bamber, chairman of the Fylde Coast Landlords Forum, said most landlords ensured their properties were occupied.

He said: “I can’t see this being a problem for our members.

“If the property isn’t let, it isn’t making any money for them so landlords want to get their properties into use.”

Nationally the government has launched an Empty Homes Strategy after it was estimated approximately three per cent of the country’s housing stock is unoccupied.

The changes to council tax in Blackpool will be considered at the council’s budget meeting on Friday February 24.

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