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Empty Buildings

Volume 569: debated on Monday 21 October 2013

With the new homes bonus we provide £235 million in grant and £130 million to local authorities for homes brought back into use. We have revised and are further reviewing permitted development rights. Since 2010, over 40,000 homes that were long-term empty have been brought back into use.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that bringing empty homes back into use is important not only as a sustainable way of increasing the local housing supply but because it can alleviate the negative impact that neglected empty homes can have on communities in constituencies like mine and similar areas?

My hon. Friend makes a very reasonable point. Derbyshire has benefited from £600,000 of empty homes funding, and I am sure that that will make quite a difference to her constituency. The substantive point is that this not only gets housing back into stock but means that streets and communities are not blighted. It is a win-win for just about everybody.

But what about the 300 empty homes in Wirral since the advent of the bedroom tax, including a block in my constituency that now looks set to be demolished without any plan for a replacement? This threatens dereliction in parts of Wirral. Is the bedroom tax not causing empty homes and risking antisocial behaviour, and is it not a false economy, never mind bringing empty homes back into use?

The hon. Lady exaggerates. The spare room subsidy is a reasonable and effective way we can ensure housing for people who need it where there is a shortage of housing. It is absolute nonsense for Labour Members to complain about empty homes: on their watch, we lost 420,000 houses in this country, and that is a disgrace.

On our high streets 40,000 shops—one in seven—are sitting empty, partly because of very high business rates. Will the Secretary of State support our proposals to give local retailers an average saving of £450 a year by freezing business rates?

Under the previous Labour Government, business rates shot up. We have offered local authorities and small businesses a complete removal of business rates through discounts. Under Labour, it was much more difficult to obtain those discounts. Frankly, the hon. Gentleman has got a cheek to make that suggestion.