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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones