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Empty Homes (England)

Volume 616: debated on Monday 24 October 2016

As of October 2015, 203,596 homes in England had been standing empty for longer than six months, the lowest number since records began.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Protecting green spaces and providing new homes are both important. What further steps can the Government take to ensure that empty homes are reutilised, notwithstanding the fact that they have already reduced the number of empty homes to an extremely low level?

Local authorities have strong incentives. They earn the same financial reward through the new homes bonus for bringing an empty home back into use as for building a new one. They also have strong enforcement powers. They can charge up to 150% council tax for homes that have been empty for more than two years and apply empty dwelling management orders to force owners to bring properties back into use.

In our town centres there are thousands of empty rooms on upper floors that could easily be converted into homes, yet they do not appear in the now excellent statistics to which the Minister refers. Will he bring together the key stakeholders and agencies to look at what the real barriers are that have meant that Governments of all hues have failed to achieve that conversion?

My hon. Friend is a former Housing Minister. I am happy to do as he suggests and perhaps to talk to him offline about that. [Interruption.]