COUNCILLORS in Newport have broadly welcomed plans to double council tax bills for long-term empty properties.
The city council voted last night to introduce the 100% council tax premiums on homes which stand empty for a year or longer.
The policy will come into effect in April.
Council leader Jane Mudd said the premiums would “make a difference in Newport”, where there are currently 830 long-term empty properties and more than 9,000 people on the waiting list for social housing.
Cllr Mudd said there was a “general lack of available housing” and believed that doubling council tax bills for such homes “should encourage owners to take steps to bring their properties back into use”.
The cabinet member for community wellbeing, Cllr Deb Harvey, said “people desperately need affordable housing” in the city, while fellow Labour councillor Emma Stowell-Corten noted empty homes were also a magnet for anti-social behaviour.
Cllr James Clarke, the cabinet member for housing, said council tax premiums were “not a magic wand” to fix the city’s housing issues, but “will help”.
The council also voted to bring in 100% premiums on second homes in the city from April 2025 – despite a report showing there were just 15 such properties in Newport.
Matthew Evans, the leader of the opposition, said it was “not worth chasing” that number of second-home owners.
But Labour councillor Dimitri Batrouni – formerly of Monmouthshire County Council – told him second homes had become a major problem there, and “prevention is better than cure”.
Cllr Evans also labelled the city council’s previous record on empty homes “woefully inadequate”.
Citing a public consultation on the plans, Cllr Mudd told the meeting the premiums plan was “the change that the citizens of Newport would like to see”.
From April 1 this year, a 100% council tax premium will be charged on homes in Newport which have been empty for a year or longer.
Exceptions will apply. New owners will not have to pay a premium for the first three months, extended to six months if “major building work is being carried out”.
No premium will be charged for properties attached to a business where there is no separate entrance.
The same premiums policy will come into effect in Newport for second-home owners a year later.