A ST STEPHEN councillor has welcomed a crackdown on empty homes which will see homeowners charged the equivalent of a year’s council tax if properties have been empty for more than two years.
Coun Gareth Jones welcomed the decision by city council chiefs at a meeting last Tuesday (February 19) to introduce the Government-backed move to bring vacant homes back to life.
Worcester City Council will now impose a further year’s council tax on all properties left vacant for more than two years if they have been deemed intentionally empty.
The policy will not penalise homeowners who are struggling to rent or sell a property or homes which are empty due to the occupant living in armed forces accommodation for job-related purposes.
Speaking at the meeting, Coun Jones raised the issue of a property in his St Stephen ward which had been empty for a staggering 23 years.
“This has severely affected the ability of next door neighbours to sell their homes, so I am delighted to see this being introduced,” he said.
Green leader Coun Louis Stephen introduced the proposal and said: “We have continued pressure to increase homes in the city to reduce demand and the cost of accommodation in Worcester.”
“We should be building on brownfield sites and supporting schemes such as living above the shops.
“A number of neighbours and residents will complain quite rightly about the mess that comes with empty and abandoned properties.”
Coun Marc Bayliss, leader of the council, said: “There is a moral case for this as well as a financial one.
“We need to tackle the housing problem in this country, people who choose to keep these homes empty should be aware this is something we will tackle.
“Abandoned homes are going to wrack and ruin so what we need is an incentive to get these homes into use and I think this policy will do such a thing.”
Further proposals to impose an extra two years and three years council tax on homes which have been empty for more than five and 10 years respectively will be examined further by city council chiefs.