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Call to increase empty property tax
There were around 720,000 vacant dwellings in England last year, three per cent of the total stock
Penalties against people who leave houses empty should be increased, a leading union has urged after new research showed more than 700,000 properties in England are unoccupied.
The GMB said the Government should look again at the level of tax levied on empty houses.
There were around 720,000 vacant dwellings in England last year, a slight fall of 17,000 on 2010, representing over 3% of the total stock, according to the research.
The North West had the highest proportion of empty properties of any region at 4.2%, followed by Yorkshire and the Humber (4%), the North East (3.9%) and the East Midlands (3.4%), said the report.
The highest number of vacant properties was in Leeds (13,946), followed by Birmingham (11,924), Liverpool (11,881) and Bradford (11,210).
GMB leader Paul Kenny said: "That there are so many empty dwellings in England at a time when there is acute pressure on the housing market shows there are not enough penalties against leaving a property vacant.
"The population in all regions has grown between 2001 and 2011, and house prices have increased in nearly all areas.
"Private rents are up. There are also many families on waiting lists for social housing.
"Politicians and the public authorities need to look again at the level of tax levied on properties that are empty.
"The system needs to be tilted in such a way that property owners face penalties if they do not take all reasonable steps to ensure that dwellings are occupied."
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