Proposed council tax rises on empty and second homes will help increase the availability of affordable housing, residents have been told. 

A raft of new measures to tackle the housing crisis in County Durham are set to be introduced, with homeowners paying more for empty or unfurnished properties. 

The latest proposals considered by members of Durham County Council’s cabinet include increasing the council tax premium for properties which have been classed as empty and unfurnished for 10 or more years to 300 per cent. 

Members also backed plans to reduce the amount of time a property needs to be classed as empty and unfurnished before an increased premium is applicable from 24 months to 12. 

A 100 per cent council tax premium on properties is also set to be introduced. All proposals are due to be enforced between 2024-25. 

The proposed changes have been made possible after the government’s latest Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill was passed in October. 

Council figures show there were 5,310 properties recorded as empty and unfurnished for council tax purposes, as of October 1. Of these, 928 properties would progress onto being empty and unfurnished for 12 months. 

The local authority predicted it would raise around £1.5 million if it adopted the proposal  to levy a council tax premium of 100% after one year. 

The figures also show there were 1,500 properties recorded as second homes in the same time period. The council predicts it would raise £2.9 million by enforcing this proposal. 

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Cllr Richard Bell, member for finance, said the proposals would reduce the number of empty properties, increase the availability of housing including affordable homes and boosts the council’s spending power. 

He told members:  “As with councils up and down the country, we are currently faced with making very difficult decisions to try to balance our budgets next year. 

“Given the situation we are in, it is only right that we join the many councils up and down the country in exploring this option.”