A tax hike to 1,200 second homes in two Suffolk districts, as well as to the owners of properties that remain empty, has been approved. 

The proposals which would set out who would be liable to pay a council tax premium were unanimously agreed upon by cabinet members at Mid Suffolk and Babergh district councils. 

The hike on second homes could net just over £2m across both districts, with Babergh and Mid Suffolk getting £106,000 and £90,000 once the extra money has been shared with all other preceptors.

In regards to empty homes, the premium is expected to generate nearly £600,000 in council tax revenues, with Babergh and Mid Suffolk councils netting £27,062 and £53,910. 

East Anglian Daily Times: Cllr Jessie CarterCllr Jessie Carter (Image: Babergh District Council)

Cllr Jessie Carter, who moved the proposal in Babergh, said the new policy would help to tackle the housing shortage and make homes more affordable for residents currently being priced out of the market.

She said: “We are looking to encourage landlords to not have empty homes wasting away, but to have tenants living in them.

“The idea is to give people a bit of a nudge who’ve got empty homes to work with us proactively to get them back onto the rental market.”

For empty homes, the increase will apply from April 1, 2024, to houses left unoccupied and substantially unfurnished and will depend on how long homes have been vacant — it will be calculated as follows:

A 100 per cent increase after a year or more, from April 1, 2019;
A 200 per cent increase after five years or more, from April 1, 2020, and;
A 300 per cent increase after 10 years or more, from April 1, 2021.

Although both councils have only just decided to increase the premium, which will impact nearly 1,200 houses across both districts, the tax hike has been possible since 2018.

East Anglian Daily Times: Cllr Richard WinchCllr Richard Winch (Image: BMSDC)

Cllr Richard Winch, who proposed the change in Mid Suffolk, said: “This is a common sense measure because we need to get empty properties back into circulation if we possibly can.

“Empty homes are a waste of resources and generally have a negative impact on communities — every council in the country will be looking at this.”

For second homes, the hike can only be implemented from the financial year starting on April 1, 2025 and will mean another nearly 1,200 homes will fall under the criteria for a 100 per cent council tax premium.

Mid Suffolk leader, Cllr Andrew Mellen, said: “If someone is fortunate enough to have a second home, and they choose to leave it empty, we’re not compelling them to use it but we are asking them to contribute further to the community.”

Nevertheless, the Government has already indicated some exceptions to both of these premiums will be put in place. Details were expected in the new year but this has been delayed.

Further detail on these is expected before the start of the next financial year.