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NFDC committee backs New Forest empty-home tax to help tackle housing shortage

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A HIKE on the council tax premiums paid by empty home owners in the New Forest has been given backing.

Currently, the owners of properties empty for five years or more pay a 150% premium, and those of homes empty for 10 years or more, a 200% premium.

But members of New Forest District Council's corporate affairs and local economy overview and scrutiny panel backed increasing those respective figures to 200% and 300%.

Cllr Jill Cleary, New Forest District Council cabinet member for housing
Cllr Jill Cleary, New Forest District Council cabinet member for housing

The move supports the well-stated intention of housing portfolio holder Cllr Jill Cleary to crack down on long-term unused properties to help tackle the housing shortage crisis.

Earlier this year, NFDC adopted a strategy that gives it power to take over and lease out or seize and sell homes that have lain empty for two years or more, or make improvements before forcing a sale to pay off the work debts.

The premium hike was backed by the committee after it was handed a report outlining a council tax reduction task and finish group had looked into the move and endorsed it.

As part of the changes, members also voted to give any new owner of a home that had been subject to a premium an exemption from council tax for six months.

That exemption will also be given to an owner of an empty home if they are looking to bring the property back into use, with the matter kept under regular review.

A report outlined how there are 29 that have been vacant for at least five years and 11 for a decade, and the premium hike would bring in £56,000 a year – of which only 10% (£5,600) would go to NFDC.

However, Ryan Stevens, service manager for revenues and benefits, stressed to the committee it was "not about income" but "getting properties back in use".

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