NEWPORT could become the latest area of Wales to hike council tax premiums for long-term empty properties.
Amid a huge surge in demand for housing in the city, council leader Jane Mudd said the move would be an “incentive” to owners and could bring nearly 1,000 homes “back into use”.
Demand for temporary accommodation has risen by 114% since the Covid-19 pandemic, and there are also currently 9,000 people on the waiting list for social housing, according to a council report.
There are also 2,565 empty residential properties in Newport, of which 830 are classed as long-term empty homes (typically properties which are vacant and unfurnished for 12 months or longer).
Cllr Mudd told cabinet colleagues “it can’t be right” that hundreds of properties were sitting vacant in Newport when “we have such a huge demand” for housing.
City residents will now have their say on the proposal to hike council tax bills for owners of long-term empty homes.
Empty homes in Newport are currently exempt from council tax for up to 12 months, but under the council’s new plan, owners could be charged four times the standard council tax rate after that point.
During a cabinet meeting this week, Cllr Mudd and her colleagues said they expected the policy to be popular, because it would address homelessness and make more housing available to families in need.
Rough-sleeping was not a “lifestyle choice”, said cabinet member for housing James Clarke, in a criticism of recent comments by former home secretary Suella Braverman.
Both he and Debbie Harvey, the cabinet member for community, spoke in support of the council’s plan.
Cllr Harvey said the proposal would mean owners of long-term empty homes had to “pay a premium” to hold onto them.
Jason Hughes, the cabinet member for social services, said such owners had a “civic duty” to contribute to housing, and there were “lots to be gained” from the council’s proposal.
Following a public consultation this winter, Newport City Council will vote on the policy in the new year.