Pembrokeshire: empty home council tax to rise from 50% to 125% in year 3, 150% in year 4 and 200% in year 5

“Owners of hundreds of empty homes in Pembrokeshire are to be hit by a 125% council tax bill.

Empty homes in the county are allowed a 50% discount to the levy under current arrangements. But from April 2019 this discount will be scrapped, with owners of homes which have stood empty for more than three years being charged 125% of normal council tax.

Pembrokeshire council voted the plans through at a meeting on Thursday.
The council introduced a 50% premium for owners of second homes back in April and voted to extend it into the 2018-19 financial year. It will now look at giving the cash to local communities for projects.

Currently, there are 1,206 empty homes in Pembrokeshire, which are subject to a council tax discount. However, this will be scrapped under the changes and all properties which have been empty for three years from 1 April 2016 will be subject to a 25% council tax premium.

Homes which have been empty for four years will be taxed an extra 50%, or 150% tax, and five years or more will pay double or 200% council tax.
The council also voted in an amendment for an appeals process for homeowners trying to sell or refurbish their properties.”

Rental repossessions increase in Devon

Concerns have been raised following an increase this year in the number of people in Devon having their homes repossessed.

Figures from Citizens Advice Exeter show an overall 3.8 per cent increase in the number of housing repossession cases listed at Exeter County Court in the six month period ending September 30. This is in comparison to the same period in 2016.

Steve Barriball, Citizens Advice Exeter chief executive, said: “In the last six months there were 296 cases listed for repossession, an overall 3.8 per cent increase, or 11 cases, on the previous year. However, there was a small reduction in mortgage repossessions, which were down by four cases.

“The biggest increase was in housing association repossessions, up by 12.7 per cent. There were further increases of 2.7 per cent in private rented sector cases and 1.8 per cent in local authority actions.

“For the last few years we have seen the headline number of cases listed for repossession level out. Therefore, these latest figures are concerning. …

Many councils fail to replace social housing lost to right to buy

Dozens of councils have failed to replace a single home sold off under the Tories ’ Right to Buy in the last year.

Shock figures show at least 32 town halls lost homes under the controversial scheme without starting a single direct replacement.

A further 15 councils didn’t record a single new home but had some data missing in government figures.

The analysis said 12,383 council homes were sold overall under Right to Buy between July 2016 and June 2017 – but just 4,813 (38%) were replaced in the same period.

The figures are an embarrassment for Theresa May after she summoned housebuilding giants to Downing Street to “fix the broken housing market.”

Bosses of Barratt, Redrow and Taylor Wimpey were among more than 20 developers who met the Prime Minister ahead of measures expected in next month’s budget.

The official government statistics, compiled by the Lib Dems, show Leicester City Council sold off 398 homes under the scheme from July 2016 to June 2017.

Yet the council did not make a single ‘start on site’ of replacement homes in the same period, the figures show.

Hull, Wigan and Doncaster all also sold more than 170 homes in the 12-month period without starting any direct replacements.

Councils had warned they were too cash-strapped to replace homes like-for-like when the Tories announced they would extend Right to Buy to housing associations in 2015.

Local Government Association housing spokesman Martin Tett said: “Councils only keep a third of all receipts from homes sold under Right to Buy.

“Further complex rules and restrictions mean councils are struggling to rapidly replace them.

“It is vital that councils are able to retain 100% of receipts from any council homes they sell.”

Leicester City Council assistant mayor Andy Connelly said Right to Buy had cut the city’s housing stock from 1,500 to 1,200 in just two years – and cost £1.6m in lost rent last year.”

Exmouth “has too many retirement flats” – what, only Exmouth!

“The number of elderly people moving into new retirement developments in Exmouth is becoming unsustainable, town councillors have warned

Developer McCarthy and Stone is proposing 59 retirement flats on land to the south of Redgate, next to Tesco in Salterton Road.

Members of Exmouth Town Council’s planning committee were asked this week to reconsider plans for the scheme, which they had previously opposed, after additional information was submitted by the developer about why permission should be granted, on subjects including flood risk and land use policy.

However, councillors voted to continue their previous objections, which were on the grounds that site had been allocated as employment land in the East Devon Local Plan, and they felt Exmouth had reached ‘saturation point’ with developments of this type.

Councillor Brenda Taylor said: “All of that land up from Tesco is allocated as employment land.

“We need jobs here. I think we should again refuse it on those grounds.

“Years of work went into the local plan, and for what?

“They have got five or six properties in Exmouth already, and it’s a huge overload on our services.

“We can’t sustain these older people.”

Councillor Maddy Chapman said that an argument by McCarthy and Stone that employment would be provided by the development was not satisfactory.

She said: “When they say they are supplying jobs, and it’s going to be a care home sort of thing, the qualifications of people they employ, you cannot say it is a care home.

“For those number of flats, to say they are going to employ 15 people, you put them on a rota basis, and it’s absolute rubbish.

“Also we’ve got the other retirement flats being built up Drakes Avenue, so we’ve got two lots of flats going up. Who is going to look after all these people?”

Councillor Fred Caygill said: “If it’s not going to be employment land I would rather see affordable housing on the site, rather than I think probably the fifth McCarthy and Stone development in the town, which we cannot sustain.”

EDDC will rule on planning permission.”

“Sainsbury’s faces anger over London plot with just 4% affordable homes”

683 homes on a prime London site and Sainsbury’s says it can afford for only 27 of them to be affordable … beggars belief. PLEASE, PLEASE get this government – which not only allows this sort of thing but encourages it – OUT!

“Sainsbury’s is facing housing campaigners’ anger over a proposed high-rise development surrounding an east London superstore that includes just 4% affordable homes.

Local opponents have described the supermarket’s proposal that just 27 of the 683 homes in the Ilford project will be available for affordable rent as “insulting”.

Planning experts for the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, have said the offer “falls substantially short” of City Hall’s plan to deliver 17,000 affordable homes per year – equivalent to 40% of the strategic housebuilding target.

It also falls well short of the London Borough of Redbridge’s target of 50% affordable housing across all new developments. There are currently over 8,000 households on the waiting list for affordable housing in the area, and more than 2,400 living in temporary accommodation.

The borough estimates it needs an extra 15,000 affordable homes by 2033. The case is set to go before a public inquiry starting on Tuesday, but the project appears likely to go ahead after the council withdrew its opposition on Saturday.

Sainsbury’s says the “maximum reasonable” amount of affordable housing it can include is 14 one- and two-bedroom flats, a dozen three-bedroom units and a single four-bedroom property. It estimates making a 20% profit selling off the private flats, according to planning documents. At current local prices that could exceed £40m.

It has described it as “a financially challenging project”, partly because of lost revenues to its retail operation when it closes its existing store for construction. It has also agreed to pay Redbridge £11.4m in community infrastructure levy, although this cannot be used to fund affordable housing.

But Meenakshi Sharma, co-founder of Ilford NOISE, a local residents group, said the amount of affordable housing being offered was “ridiculous and insulting”.

“People can’t believe it is 4% especially with all the publicity about the need for affordable housing,” she said. “And yet this still carries on. They don’t take any notice whatsoever. There’s a big housing need in the area. There are lots of people in temporary accommodation and lots of overcrowding.”

It is the latest in a series of high-profile battles over the financial viability of private housing schemes in the capital with councils seeking to maximise the number of cheaper homes in developments and developers seeking to minimise them. Previous disputes have centred on central London sites where developers have argued that the high cost of land limits their ability to subsidise affordable housing, but the row over the Ilford site suggests the issue is spreading to the outer London suburbs.

Affordable in this case means rents capped at 60% of market rates. Sainsbury’s is increasingly moving into housebuilding, using the space above its stores for housing. The Ilford project is its largest yet, but it has also built 650 homes around a store in Nine Elms and 500 homes above a store in Fulham, both in London.

Redbridge had originally rejected the application because of the lack of affordable housing and was planning to oppose it at the public inquiry, but it has now reversed its position and accepted the 4% offer.

On Friday, a spokeswoman for Redbridge told the Guardian: “We declined the application because of the huge gap between the borough’s expectations on affordable housing in new developments, and the proposals we were given. The capital is critically short of housing, especially affordable housing and we need to increase the stock in the borough.”

But on Saturday it told the planning inspector it was withdrawing its opposition and would not resist Sainsbury’s appeal against its original refusal.

In a letter to the planning inspectorate, the head of planning, Joanne Woodward, said it had agreed common ground on the financial viability of the project and a planning deal, although without any increase in the affordable housing included in the development.

“The council will attend on the first day of the inquiry to explain how the position it has now adopted has been reached,” she said.

Sainsbury’s said: “Our plans will help kick-start Ilford’s future regeneration by driving growth and job creation, as well as provide a broad mix of housing for local people. We look forward to the outcome of the appeal. We have agreed with the council to review the provision at certain points throughout the development, and if we can increase the number of affordable homes we will.”

Telegraph: “There are more than 200,000 homes sitting empty in England – worth a total of £43bn”

“In England there are 200,000 homes that have been sitting empty for more than six months, according to new Government figures. This is equivalent to £43bn worth of housing stock.

In London alone there were 19,845 homes sitting vacant for over six months last year, property that is worth £9.4bn, taking into account average prices.

Kensington and Chelsea has the capital’s highest number of homes which are vacant for more than six months with 1,399 empty, up 8.5pc on last year, and 22.7pc higher than 10 years ago.

This is likely due to the buy-to-leave phenomenon, where wealthy buyers snap up homes as an investment, and leave them empty while waiting for its value to increase.

Communities secretary Sajid Javid downplayed the role of such foreign buyers in exacerbating the housing crisis, saying the problem “isn’t as bad as some people think”. A Savills’ report found that the majority of homes bought by people based overseas were being rented out, rather than left empty. …”