More underused homes than new builds in Exeter

Proposals to increase council tax charges on underused Exeter housing stock have revealed over 900 properties are either empty or used as a second or holiday home.

Recent research has revealed there are 433 homes in the city that currently stand empty and another 505 are owned as a second or holiday home. Together, these make more than the 933 new builds which were constructed over the last two years.

Research also found 50 homes that have been empty for between two and five years, which are charged double council tax rates, whilst homes that have been left for between five and 10 years are currently paying triple.  

However, if a home stands empty for two months, no additional council tax fees are required, and a 50% discount applies for up t0 12 months for homes that are empty during structural repairs.

Exeter City Council is proposing to target the 368 empty homes that are eligible for these discounts and another 505 second or holiday homes, with new powers being introduced in the government’s Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill.

The Bill claims local authorities can charge double the normal amount of council tax for ‘unoccupied and substantially unfurnished’ empty homes after one year, instead of two, and to introduce the same premium for second or holiday homes which are ‘substantially furnished’ but no-one’s sole or main residence.

Local authorities in Exeter are hoping these new charges will generate up to £1.5m in additional annual council tax revenue, of which it would keep around £123K.

However, implementing the new charges will require more council resources and their impact on wealthy owners of multiple properties remains unclear – 20 of the city’s second homes that are likely to be affected are worth more than £820K, while the council tax charges will range between £115 and £153 per month.

As well as being hit by soaring council tax rates, Exeter council housing tenants are due to be clobbered by a huge rent hike.

Rent for locals who live in council houses in the city is set to increase by 7% from April 2023 – the recommendation will mean an average weekly increase of around £6 per property.

Explaining the recommendation to raise costs, a report to the council’s executive team said: ‘Significantly the costs of services and labour are already increasing above inflation and a reduced rent increase would lead to a reduction of service delivery.

‘Many tenants will have their rents met by housing benefit (HB) or universal credit (UC), so a lower rent increase will not necessarily benefit them. 30% of the council’s tenants are on full HB, 10 per cent on partial HB and 20 per cent in receipt of UC.’

Photo by Spencer Eccles_Jones


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