Tuesday, 27 Feb 2024

Sadiq Khan slammed over empty home failure as he calls for new tax powers

Sadiq Khan on ‘delivering’ affordable home targets

The Mayor of London has been told to “stop blaming the Government for his own failings” after he demanded new powers to “crack down” on long-term empty properties in the capital.

Amid a housing crisis, Sadiq Khan claimed £20billion-worth of property is sitting vacant in London, saying it’s a “scandal” that there are around 30,000 long-term empty homes under his watch.

However, analysis of empty home figures since 2004 shows Mr Khan’s predecessor succeeding in significantly reducing empty homes without such powers.

Mr Khan, alongside the Labour leader of Westminster Council, has demanded new devolved power to set higher rates of council tax on empty homes, as well as make it easier for councils to temporarily take over empty homes by using Empty Dwelling Management Orders.

He said: “It’s a scandal that so many much-needed homes across London lie vacant in the midst of a housing crisis.

“That’s why I’m working with Westminster City Council to call on the Government to implement a range of measures to crack down on long-term empty homes, including the devolution of powers so that local councils can set higher rates of council tax on vacant properties.

An analysis of the figures, however, reveals that the number of long-term empty homes in London has risen by 64 percent since Sadiq took office.

During his eight years in office, Boris Johnson reduced the number of empty homes in the capital from the 36,534 left by his predecessor, Ken Livingston, to 20,915 – a fall of 43 percent.

Since Mr Khan took over the running of City Hall, however, that figure has risen back up to 34,327.

The fall in numbers under Boris Johnson raises questions about whether Sadiq Khan does require new devolved powers.

In 2017, Sadiq Khan said: “In the midst of a housing crisis, just one home left unoccupied is one too many.”

Since then, Mr Kahn has presided over an increase of over 14,000 long-term empty homes.

While there was a 6,000 increase between 2019-20 – the main period of the Covid pandemic, which may have seen foreign owners leaving the UK – there was an increase of 1,500 empty dwellings in 2021-22.

In 2014, Boris Johnson also called for a change to the law, so 1,000 percent rates could be imposed on the owners of vacant homes.

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Shaun Bailey AM, the Tories’ housing spokesman in City Hall, slammed Sadiq Khan for claiming he’s “shocked and appalled” by the rise in empty homes despite it being his fault.

“It’s not good enough for Sadiq Khan to be shocked and appalled by the rising number of empty homes, when it is his fault the problem is getting worse to begin with.

“His predecessor took serious action and reduced the number of long-term empty homes by 45 percent. Sadiq Khan has reversed nearly all of this progress with an outrageous 73 percent increase on his watch.

“This Mayor needs to stop blaming the government for his own failings and get on with the job.”

Tory London Mayoral candidate Samuel Kasumu said Mr Khan’s attempt to tackle empty homes is “too little, too late”.

“Under Boris we saw long-term vacant homes in London drop to record lows. Under Sadiq Khan, the number has rapidly increased, putting pressure on London’s stretched housing market.

“The solutions Khan is offering are ‘too little too late’. This is another example of the Mayor recognising the problems of his own making and only attempting to deal with them when under pressure.”

Last week, Sadiq Khan hailed victory after hitting his affordable housing target on time, only for it to emerge he would have missed it without including 7,000 built by Boris Johnson in his final year as Mayor.

The Mayor’s office has been contacted for comment.

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