Ed Miliband: 'Ghost' home owners face higher taxes under Labour

Political Editor

Owners of empty “ghost” homes who buy them as an investment and help to drive up house prices would be hit by bigger tax penalties under a Labour Government.

The move came as George Osborne came under fresh pressure to prevent the housing market overheating. The Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) called for “timely prudential measures to address the risks of excessive house price inflation” and suggested these could include “tighter access” to the Government’s Help to Buy scheme. "House prices... significantly exceed long-term averages relative to rents and household incomes,” said the Paris-based think tank.

The Chancellor could be forced by the Bank of England to halve the £600,000 maximum property for which the Government will guarantee a 95 per cent mortgage. Another option is to end the scheme in London, where house prices are rising twice as fast than in other regions.

About 60,000 homes in London are empty, despite the shortage of housing. Labour condemned that as “a scandal” as it announced that property owners, who often live abroad, would face double the normal council tax bill when a home had been empty for a year. At present, local authorities can impose a 50 per cent increase after two years.

Labour would ban developers from marketing properties to foreigners before British people get a chance to buy them. This follows criticism that apartments are sold to wealthy foreign investors while they are still being built. A Labour government would also close the loophole under which absentee owners avoid the current 50 per cent council tax surcharge by moving in “a table and chair.”

Ed Miliband told the London Evening Standard: “We’ve got to stop this phenomenon of empty properties being bought by overseas investors and nothing done about it.” 

He said there was “a danger” of housing in London becoming closed to ordinary families unless action was taken to prevent them being priced out.

Mr Osborne said: “I’ve said we should be vigilant about the housing market and this Government has given the Bank of England the powers, the tools to do that in an independent way. That didn’t exist before but we’ve learnt from the mistakes of the last Government and the Bank has the tools and independence to do what it feels it needs to do to help to contribute to building that resilient economy.”

The Chancellor welcomed the OECD’s to revise its forecast for UK growth to 3.2 per cent – up from 2.4 per cent last November - as it said the recovery had now “taken hold.” Mr Osborne hailed this as “a real vote of confidence in the UK’s long term economic plan.”

Liam Bailey, global head of research at the estate agent Knight Frank, said: “The problem with measures to tackle empty homes, or under-occupied homes, whether sensible or not, fundamentally comes down to practicalities. Namely how Government can actually define and then identify empty homes. The practical implications of the policy are likely to be limited.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us