Propertymark has renewed its call for the UK government to restart the Empty Homes Programme which closed in 2015, having distributed £100 million
A trade body has claimed that new financial incentives are needed to bring thousands of empty homes back into use and give a much-needed boost to housing supply.
Propertymark, which represents estate agents, letting agents, auctioneers and other property professionals, has renewed its call for the UK government to restart the Empty Homes Programme which closed in 2015, having distributed £100 million.
In addition to this, Propertymark has urged other long-term financial incentives including removing VAT on home and energy efficiency improvements, as well as discounts or exemptions to council tax and stamp duty when empty properties are purchased and utilised.
The body said that measures in the recently released Levelling Up White Paper to address the issue were welcome, but urged ministers to go even further and ‘explore a scheme that targets owners of empty homes’.
This is similar to the one in the White Paper that sets out an intention to give councils powers that will place a requirement on landlords to find tenants for long-term vacant commercial properties in town and city centres. This would compel owners to use the property to live in, rent out or sell it.
The number of long-term empty homes in England stands at 238,306, according to the latest figures from Action on Empty Homes. This is not very far off the 300,000 homes per year that the government is committed to building to keep pace with demand. The number of empty homes is some 20% higher than at the end of the last national Empty Homes Programme.
A lack of supply in both the sales and rental markets is a major issue for the property market, with Propertymark member agents reporting high demand outstripping historically low supply across the country.
Empty homes are a wasted resource and at a time when the housing market is in the grip of unsustainably low levels of stock for sale and for rent, it makes no sense that there are thousands of homes sitting vacant, Timothy Douglas, head of policy and campaigns for Propertymark, commented.
We have long called for the reintroduction of a national programme of funding because of the much-needed incentive that it can provide to get these properties back into the market for would-be home buyers or landlords, he said.
He added: The UK government has set itself a target of building 300,000 new houses a year, but it must not miss opportunities to do more to better manage the growing level of existing housing stock that is currently being underused, or not used at all.