A SCHEME to tackle the issue of empty homes in Coventry is set to be approved by the council after changes in national legislation.
The move would mean an owner of a vacant property could be charged up to three times more council tax in the future to urge them to bring their property back into use.
There are nearly 400 properties in the city which have been empty for more than two years.
And government figures for last year show there were more than 1,300 homes in the city which have been derelict for more than six months.
Council chiefs hope the plan will bring much needed homes back into use amid rising homelessness nationally.
The number of families (including pregnant couples) becoming homeless in the city has more than tripled, to nearly 500 since 2014, a council report says.
And the number of homeless children in Coventry has increased by about eight times in five years, reaching nearly 600.
Many are living in temporary accommodation – such as hotels or bed and breakfasts.
The proposals are outlined in a report to cabinet on January 8, seeking approval to change the empty property premium as part of the annual Council Tax Base Report.
It would mean from April 1 next year, a council tax premium of 100 per cent may be applied to properties that have been empty for two years.
From April 1, 2020, this could double for properties which have been empty for more than five years.
And it could treble for properties empty for more than 10 years from April 1, 2021.
The government announced the empty homes council tax premium increase in the summer.
Coventry City Council’s cabinet member for finance Councillor John Mutton said: “The Council Tax Base Report gives us the measure of how many properties should be paying council tax across the city – but it doesn’t set the level of council tax.
“We are facing a housing crisis and we want to make sure that people aren’t letting good homes go to waste, or even buying up properties to falsely inflate their value – this premium is a great incentive for people sitting on empty houses to get them back into use for the people of Coventry.”
The council tax base in 2019/20 is recommended to be set at 83,400, a 3.2 per cent increase upon last year.
This council says the rise is due to an increase in the number of chargeable properties and fewer properties eligible for exemptions and discounts across the city.
From April 1, 2013, councils have been able to charge a premium equal to 50 per cent of council tax liability for properties empty for more than two years.