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Comment: let’s stop waiting for new homes to be built and requisition the thousands lying empty

 (Matt Writtle)
(Matt Writtle)

Michael Gove has been forced to abandon his plans to introduce mandatory housebuilding targets after a backbench rebellion.

While this is depressing in its inevitability, we needn’t understand it as the final failure in our attempt to solve the housing crisis.

Even if we were to build 300,000 homes each year, they would also need to be good quality, well located and not present a burden to the existing community.

This is often why planning for new homes isn’t exactly welcomed by neighbours, regardless of whether they’re in the true, blue Green Belt or the raging red inner city.

An even more salient argument against new housebuilding is the horrific carbon footprint.

There are other ways to increase our available housing stock though, alongside building.

Council tax figures show England has 257,000 homes more or less stashed down the back of the sofa, a 20 per cent increase in six years.

Campaign group Action on Empty Homes estimates that a third of homes in the City of London are long-term unoccupied, with one in eight in Kensington & Chelsea also empty and thousands more vacant homes spread across London.

Many of these should-be homes are treated as nothing more than savings accounts by their owners.

Why not tax them heavily so they are no longer so lucrative? If the owners can’t be tracked down to pay up, I’m for requisitioning — after all, they might not even notice.