A petition I Iaunched in January 2008 gained 380 signatures in a year and any petition with over 200 names gets a comment from the Government. Which is...they are not going to do anything new. Click here to read their response.
For them the existing law is sufficient. The Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMOs) that they refer to, are enough for Local Councils to bring back empty homes into use. The first EDMO was issued in Peterborough in January 2008 and they have since been used on only 20 properties in the entire UK. They say the threat of an EDMO gets the owners to do something. Also that there has been a 9% fall in empties since 1997 (less than 1% a year) but David Ireland of the Empty Homes Agency says that the figures have been climbing for 3 years now and on a programme on ITV on Friday 17th April it was noted that in 2008 we had the biggest jump in numbers ever. There are now nearly 1 million empty homes in the UK. It is not difficult to see why EDMOs are not used. The Peterborough case took 20% of the council officer’s time to handle it. As the EDMO rules are so complicated the Empty Homes Agency have produced a helpful guide,click here for their flowchart which shows nearly 60 actions needed before the builder even gets on site to do repairs!
Meanwhile, ideas from LibDems and Conservatives include proposals to charge the same VAT (or none) on house repairs as on new build; and various schemes to ensure that funds for social housing can be spent on repairing rather than only new-build. But this is merely well-meaning tinkering.
What no party is actively proposing yet is the single most effective measure to bring unused buildings, and empty land with planning permission, into productive use: to tax all land according to its value. It would be a substitute for Council Tax and with reductions in other taxes it could be adjusted to achieve the efficient use of land and existing buildings.
This is a thoroughly green policy and is now getting more possible to legislate for. The current credit crisis had it origins in tempting low-earning families into home ownership. That scenario is now busted and firm steps must be taken to prevent its recurrence. We need land value tax to control the next speculative housing and land bubble well before it starts again. This measure would help force empty homes onto the market and help to give people what they need – affordable homes where they want them.