long term empty homes & second homes on the rise in the district

On the 26 July 2023, Cabinet Member for Housing & Homelessness Cllr Rebecca Shoob (Green) informed the world there were 1,540 households on the council housing waiting list, and 92 households were accommodated in B&B type accommodation, during 2022/23.

This month, Action on Empty Homes released the data for the number of Long Term Empty properties there are in our district. For the last five years the number of long term empty properties in the district has risen to its highest figure ever – 709. Of these 700 are in private ownership, and 9 properties belong to the council.

The empty properties if bought back into use would be able to accommodate 46% of all households on the council housing waiting list.

In 2022, Folkestone & Hythe District Council had the third highest number of long term empty properties, with only Canterbury and Thanet ahead of it.

At the end of 2021, a Kent Housing Stock report said Folkestone & Hythe had 53,217 dwellings with 3,388 council properties; 1,987 private registered providers; 300 ‘other’ private sector and 47,542 private sector.

For those of you not aware our Council can charge an additional amount of council tax when a property has been empty and unfurnished for two years or more.

  • For properties that have been empty and substantially unfurnished for two years, but less than five years, the premium is set at 100%
  • For properties that have been empty and substantially unfurnished for five years but less than ten years, the premium is set at 200%.
  • Where a property has been unoccupied and substantially unfurnished for ten years or more, the premium increases to 300%. This means the owner of a property which has been empty and unfurnished for ten years or more, will be charged an extra 300% Council Tax on top of the full Council Tax for the property (a 400% Council Tax charge).

But it is not just long term empty properties which are an issue. One has to take into account the number of second homes in the Folkestone & Hythe district; which has risen year on year since 2019.

Folkestone & Hythe District shares joint third position with Swale (2.2%) with Dover second (2.3%) and Thanet first for the number of second homes with 2.5%.

As recently pointed out by environmentalist George Monbiot, if you own a second property which you keep empty for most of the time, you’ve inadvertently created a need for another home to be built unnecessarily. This is not just unfair for those people who are without somewhere to live but also terrible for the environment.

The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, which is currently passing through Parliament, will provide powers to billing authorities such as Folkestone & Hythe District Council to charge a discretionary council tax premium of up to 100% for dwellings which are second homes. The legislation, if passed, is due to come into force from April 2024.

As many are acutely aware there is a national housing crisis and the situation in Folkestone & Hythe is no exception. People purchasing second homes in the district is a contributing factor as there are fewer homes available to rent or purchase, forcing locals to become migrants by moving to areas outside the district.

The previous administration made it clear 1,300 “affordable homes” are planned as is made clear in the Folkestone & Hythe District Council Housing Asset Management Strategy 2022-2027. It states at page 18, Para 75:

The Council has set an ambitious target to develop 300 affordable new homes during the period 2015 – 2026 and a further 1,000 new affordable new homes over the period 2025 – 2036. This will include those built at Otterpool Park, acquisitions and s106 contributions from private housing developments

Given that though, we know our Council has allowed one developer, possibly more, to evade their responsibilities in building out “affordable homes“.

The Council have a £16.5m deficit over the next four years, plus must pay back £16m in PWLB loans over the same period. Where they will get any money from to deliver any form of social housing to bring down the 1,540 households on the council waiting list is anyone’s guess. 

We have a suggestion, just like former Cllr Susan Carey: sell Otterpool Park to Urban & Civic or Places for People for £240m, or thereabouts. This would clear the deficit and allow the Council to deliver more social housing; which residents so desperately needed.

The Shepway Vox Team

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About shepwayvox (1802 Articles)
Our sole motive is to inform the residents of Shepway - and beyond -as to that which is done in their name. email: shepwayvox@riseup.net

2 Comments on long term empty homes & second homes on the rise in the district

  1. Could the council not use the houses that they have purchased in the area of the Otterpool plan? There are several empty properties standing empty between Sellindge and Newingreen which are steadily deteriorating which I believe are owned by FHDC. As the Otterpool plans are in limbo surely these existing properties should be bought back into use.

    • shepwayvox // August 16, 2023 at 17:54 // Reply

      Great idea, but are Cllrs or officers bright enough to think of such things one their own?

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