Pressure grows for action on empty homes

The Council needs to do much more to tackle the scandal of thousands of homes left empty in Southwark, say local Liberal Democrats.

The borough is facing a housing crisis with housing need rising all the time with the local population set to rise to 355,000 by 2025.  The Council has sold or demolished 1,973 of its own homes but built just 65 since Labour took power in Southwark in May 2010.  There are currently 13,000 people on the Council’s housing waiting list.

Southwark is reckoned to have around 2,050 empty private sector homes, including second homes and homes left empty as investment opportunities often by overseas buyers.  Many of them have been left empty for more than six months.

Under new powers brought in by Liberal Democrats in the last government, councils can now charge 150% council tax on any home empty for two years or more.  The latest figures show that Southwark is charging just 611 of the empty homeowners in the borough.

At the last meeting of the council Liberal Democrat councillors urged the borough’s leaders to demand more powers to tackle empty homes.  They are calling for Southwark to be able to charge 200% council tax on empty homes after a home is empty for a year.  The aim would be to increase the private sector housing supply in Southwark for rent and sale.

Liberal Democrat Housing Spokesperson, Councillor Ben Johnson, said:

“Everyone knows there is a housing crisis in Southwark.  But the Council’s record so far has been really poor with just 65 new council homes built since 2010 while 1,973 have been demolished or sold.

“Yet at the same time over 2,000 private homes are lying empty in the borough.  It’s a scandal.  That is a huge untapped resource and it could make a big difference to meeting some of the soaring housing need in Southwark.

“The Council needs to do much more to bring these homes into use and make it less financially worthwhile to keep them empty.  It is shameful that new homes are being built all the time but are allowed to sit empty while overseas investors make a killing.

“It is not enough to just rely on building new council homes given the snail’s pace so far.  The Council needs to get tough on developers who say they cannot build the affordable homes they should.  It also needs to fight for extra powers to charge more council tax on homeowners who leave their homes empty. 

“Liberal Democrats will keep fighting residents’ corner and pushing the Council to increase the housing supply in Southwark.”