Tory Bromley Council forms a partnership with Sadiq Khan to tackle Empty Homes in Bromley

Bromley Council is no friend of Sadiq Khan having unsuccessfully challenged his ULEZ charges. However, the council is about to form a partnership with the London Mayor over the number of empty properties in Bromley Borough.  

A report going to the Renewal, Recreation and Housing Policy Development and Scrutiny Committee on 31 January 2024  looks at the issue of the 2149 empty homes in Bromley. This is a high figure as the council has over 1,500 homeless households in expensive temporary accommodation.

The council has been charging the owners of such property’s extra council tax. This is known as the empty homes premium. The figures are shown below. 74 properties had been emptying for between 5 to 10 years and 33 for over 10 years. The council admits that the use of the premium is not working to bring back empty properties into use. The council has therefore decided to form a project team to bring back these properties into use to provide temporary accommodation for homeless households.

A crucial paragraph states:

“ The team will then consider businesses cases together with Finance colleagues, on how to take forward the Empty Homes Programme, and whether there is  a business case for investment into Empty Homes, that deliver quality homes for those in need of housing, unlocking revenue  savings of costly nightly paid accommodation for the Council, or whether there is a business case for the acquisition of Empty Homes,  making use of the recently announced Council Homes Acquisition Programme (CHAP)  by the GLA. “

The Greater London Authority has obtained £4 billion from central government to help local councils to acquire homes including empty properties to use to rehouse the homeless or to provide social housing. The GLA will provide capital funding to local authorities. This funding include bringing properties up the decent homes standard.

This report by Bromley Council is to be welcomed. However, it is very late in the day.  The council has had many households in expensive temporary accommodation for several years. It should have been possible to use the compulsory purchase order to bring back those 33 properties that had been empty for over 10 years without grant funding from the GLA.

It refers to a data collection exercise which begs the question of why the council does not have this data already. It does not mention that the council missed its empty homes target for 4 years in a row and as a consequence lost grant money from central government under the new homes bonus. The source for this assertion is a freedom of information request to the    Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities  reported on 6 December 2023 on the what do they know website

Although the empty homes premium generates more cash for Bromley Council, it is clear that this money has not been spent on an empty homes programme. There have been regular questions from the public to council meetings for a number of years. Nor does the report mention the powers contained in the 2023 Levelling Up Act which will allow local councils to charge the empty homes premium after 12 months and instead of 24 months. Brighton Council estimate that this will generate £500,000 in income for 461 empty properties from April 2025.

 The report’s author does not mention any role for the public. Member of the public who live next door to empty properties will often have valuable information about the location of the owners. In addition, it is currently very hard to find any mention on the council’s website of how to report an empty property.

Hopefully the council will now look again at the 3 large blocks of flats that have been empty in Beckenham for well over 10 years. See my reports here , here and here . There will be a further committee report later in the year. For this programme to be successful, the council needs to consult the public on an empty homes strategy that is the responsibility of a senior councillor. It does appear that likely that with the help of the Sadiq Khan the London Mayor that some empty properties will be brought back into use in Tory Bromley.

The Appendix to the council report is shown below. No income figures were provided

Empty Homes Data (as of December 2023)

According to the Council Tax system there were 2149 recorded as Empty

It should be noted that many of these will relate to accounts awaiting probate and sale.

Of the 2149 Empty:

Band  ABCDEFGHTotalIncome Generated
Number of properties to which an EHP is being applied   12  51  162  87  37  21  15  3  388     
Number of properties Empty between 2 and 5 years (100% premium)1037124513116111281 
Number of properties Empty between 5 and 10 years (200% premium)2  9  28  25  4  2  3  1  74     
Number of properties empty over 10 years (300% premium)051011231133 
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