Westminster Council gets tough on empty homes with hotline plan to report neighbours

Aerial view of housing in West London
Aerial view of housing in West London Credit: PA

Westminster Council is planning to crack down on rich homeowners who leave properties empty by launching a hotline for neighbours to report them.

The council wants to free up more property for private rent and affordable homes.

Between 2021 and 2022 the number of homes declared long term empty shot up by 123% to 1,150.

The real number is expected to be higher due to the previous reliance on self-reporting.

"In some respects, having some of the country’s most desirable postcodes is a good problem to have," said Adam Hug, Leader of Westminster City Council. "It’s great that people from across the world invest in our city but the rise in vacant homes is alarming and we know the current figures are likely to underestimate the problem. "For many the thought of so many homes in Westminster sitting empty, essentially left to rot, while thousands wait for housing, will be hard to swallow. "These measures are an important first step in tackling the issue of empty houses in Westminster, where absentee international investment can hollow out our communities and waste a vital supply of homes," he explained.

Part of the strategy will see Westminster introduce an empty property officer to help fully unpick why so many homes in prime locations have been left vacant in recent years.

The council said it also intended to:

  • engage with owners of empty homes on the council website, highlighting the benefits bringing their properties back into use and setting out the council’s role

  • invest council time in identifying further empty properties across the city

  • hold a workshop with partners and stakeholders to create a fuller understanding of the issue in the city

  • lobby government for greater powers to bring empty homes back into use make the links with the upcoming Westminster Against Dirty Money Strategy

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