Southwark Council needs to do much more to tackle the scandal of thousands of homes left empty in Southwark.
We face a local 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 by overseas buyers. A large proportion have been left empty for more than six months.
Under 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 I urged the borough’s leaders to demand more powers to tackle empty homes. I am calling for Southwark to be able to charge at least 200% council tax on empty homes after a home is empty for a year. Scotland is allowed to do this so why not English councils. The aim would be to increase the private sector housing supply in Southwark for rent and sale.
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 then 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.
My Lib Dem colleagues and I will keep fighting residents’ corner and pushing the Council to increase the housing supply in Southwark.