Tackling empty properties to address housing need

 The 50% Council Tax discount for unoccupied and unfurnished homes could be removed in Cardiff if a review of current council tax charges is agreed.

In a bid to get empty homes back into use which could help tackle the growing demand for housing in the city, Cabinet will consider a recommendation to remove the discount at its next meeting on Thursday, November 15.

There are currently more than 3,400 empty homes in the city and 857 of those have been vacant for more than 12 months.

Cabinet Member for Finance, Modernisation and Performance, Cllr Chris Weaver said: "Empty homes are such a waste and a magnet for a range of problems including flytipping, vandalism, drug taking and other criminal activity. They are very often eyesores that affect their local surroundings. By removing current discounts and considering applying a council tax premium for properties that have been empty for more than a year, we hope to bring more homes into use."

The Council already seeks to incentivise owners to return dwellings to use in a number of ways but in a move to further encourage properties to be brought back to the market, Cabinet will consider using its powers to discontinue the discount which is currently available where dwellings are unoccupied and unfurnished, after any statutory period of exemption has expired.

If approved by Cabinet, a resolution must be passed at Full Council for the discount to be removed.

Cabinet will also discuss a recommendation to carry out public consultation on applying council tax premiums for long-term empty dwellings. Under the Housing (Wales) Act 2014, councils can apply a premium of up to 100% on top of the standard rate of council tax to long-term empty homes.

While some exceptions and exemptions would apply to the proposed changes to council tax charges, based on 2018/19 charges for a Band D property, it's estimated that around an extra £600,000 of council tax charges would need to be collected due to the removal of the 50% discount and another £300,000 could be collected in charges for long term empty dwellings, if a 50% premium was applied.

Cllr Weaver said: "Welsh Government encourages councils to use any additional revenue generated as a result of these potential changes to council tax charging to help meet local housing needs. Our aim is to get empty properties back into use, reducing their negative impact on communities and helping increase the availability of decent homes for people who need them.

"The Council is able to use discretionary powers to help bring long-term empty homes back into use to provide safe, secure and affordable homes for people. As our city continues to grow and with increasing need for housing, it's essential we do everything we can to not only ensure people have decent places to live but also to enhance the sustainability of our local communities."

If approved by Cabinet and Council, the 50% council tax discount granted to unoccupied and unfurnished dwellings would be discontinued with effect from March 31, 2019. If Cabinet agree to consultation on charging changes for long-term empty homes, any decision as a result of the consultation will be taken by Full Council early next year.