11. What steps his Department is taking to reduce the number of empty homes. (60283)
We have put in place powerful tools and incentives to support local communities to tackle empty homes. Through the new homes bonus, communities will receive a direct financial reward for bringing an empty home back into use, and we are investing £100 million to tackle empty homes directly.
Under the previous Government, together with local residents I fought to prevent thousands of homes from being built on the Kingswood green belt, particularly since there are 2,260 empty homes in south Gloucestershire, an increase of more than 660 empty homes since 2004. What encouragement can the Minister give my constituents that we will do all we can to get these homes back into use?
The new homes bonus will give local councils every incentive to bring empty homes back into use. They will get matching council tax receipts for six years for each home brought back into use, and that extra funding can be spent on things that benefit the local community, such as council tax discounts, boosting local services, renovating more empty properties or improving local facilities. The £100 million of investment is part of our affordable homes programme. Applications for that will be opened in the autumn, but I can tell my hon. Friend that 100 organisations have already expressed keen interest in it.
Will the hon. Gentleman take a look at the issue of empty offices that might be appropriate for housing? I walk past 200 Aldersgate, a massive office complex in the centre of our city that has been empty for years. That is a disgrace. Why cannot we use that for people who have nowhere to live?
I am happy to tell the hon. Gentleman that he is just in time. There is a consultation on precisely the issue he has raised. It closes on 30 June, and I look forward to receiving his submission.