Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee Inquiry into Empty Homes

In our response to Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee Inquiry we stated that don't believe that enough is being done to tackle empty homes in Wales

Summary of our response

Not enough is being done

Despite the fact that statutory and non-statutory powers are available these are not being used. We would expect a more pro-active impact on tackling empty properties if local authorities better utilise existing powers. 

Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMOs)

The Housing Act 2004 introduced EDMOs, which give local authorities the power to take over management where a property has been empty for at least two years. Research conducted by the Liberal Democrats in 2018 shows that in Wales, EDMOs had only been utilised by three local authorities since their introduction. EDMOs are referred to as the final option, however, figures show 1,100 homes in Wales have been empty for 10 years showing that they are not being used effectively.

Council Tax surcharge

Housing Act (Wales) 20144 allows local authorities a discretionary power to raise Council Tax on properties empty for 12 months or more by up to 100 per cent. Currently:

  • One local authority has implemented the full 100 per cent surcharge
  • Five local authorities have a 50 per cent surcharge
  • Three local authorities have a 25 per cent surcharge
  • 13 local authorities apply some apply a council tax discount. 

This highlights that many local authorities are not making use of powers to deter the number of empty properties. We believe that the Council Tax premium for empty properties must be mandatory and the discount should be rescinded except in certain circumstances such as when a property is on the market for sale or for rent for a period not exceeding six months.

Support for owners

We acknowledge that these support, information and advice and advice is available but there is not enough awareness. These resources need to be better communicated to the owners of long-term empty properties to encourage wider use.

It must also be acknowledged that the owners of empty properties will not always live close to the property, especially where a property has been inherited. Local authorities need to be more proactive in locating and contacting these owners in order to make them aware of the assistance available.

Impact on communities

Large numbers of empty homes negatively impact communities, they are often seen as a blight on the community and contribute towards the general decline of an area. In some cases, empty homes can also go as far as decreasing the value of surrounding properties making the area a less desirable place to live. This can create a cycle where people with the means to leave the area do so, leaving those without “stuck” in an area blighted by empty properties with little investment from newcomers.

Read our full response