September 20 2014 Latest news:
by Emma Youle, News editor
Wednesday, May 7, 2014
Labour leader Ed Miliband has adopted a flagship Camden policy to tax the owners of “ghost homes” for the party’s national election campaign.
Camden Labour introduced a 150 per cent council tax levy on empty properties in 2012 in an attempt to bring some of the borough’s one in 16 vacant homes back into use. As he launched Labour’s London campaign for the May 22 local and European elections on Tuesday, Mr Miliband revealed plans for new laws under Labour. These would hit rich home owners who leave some 60,000 properties standing empty in the capital.
Cllr Theo Blackwell, Camden cabinet member for finance, said: “We’ve been asking Ed and the Labour leadership about this for some months. We think it’s a policy that really works as part of a regime of other measures including house building and protection for private tenants who rent.
“We think together they’ll form the basis of a decent housing policy for local people.
“At the moment the housing market is out of control and we can’t leave things totally to the market, otherwise people will just continue to be priced out of Camden.”
He added: “Something has got to be done to help private tenants and people getting on the housing ladder.”
Since the change Camden Labour say the number of empty furnished properties in the borough has gone down by 35 per cent.
After witnessing its success, the local party lobbied the Labour leadership to adopt the levy – calling for tougher safeguards to ensure the system is not being abused by owners who “put a few sticks of furniture into properties” to dodge the tax and for powers to increase the levy to 200 per cent after one year.
Camden Labour say that together with its election pledge to build 6,000 new homes, the policy will help tackle the borough’s housing crisis.
On Tuesday, Mr Miliband pledged that Labour would take action by doubling council tax for flats that lie empty and banning developers from marketing to foreigners before Londoners have the chance to buy new homes.
“We’ve got to stop this phenomenon of empty properties being bought by overseas investors and nothing is done about it,” he told the London Evening Standard.
“The connection between the great wealth London creates and everyday family finances has been broken.”