George Monbiot has an article in the Guardian about housing under-occupancy, drawing attention to two contradictory housing crises: under-supply of housing stock and under-occupancy of existing houses.
The issue is surplus housing – the remarkable growth of space that people don’t need. Between 2003 and 2008 (the latest available figures), there was a 45% increase in the number of under-occupied homes in England. The definition of under-occupied varies, but it usually means that households have at least two bedrooms more than they require. This category now accounts for over half the homes in which single people live, and almost a quarter of those used by larger households. Nearly 8m homes – 37% of the total housing stock – are officially under-occupied.
It’s an interesting issue, based on major wealth disparities and exacerbated by contradictory incentives:
If you live by yourself, regardless of the size of your property, you get a 25% council tax discount. The rest of us, in other words, subsidise wealthy single people who want to keep their spare rooms empty.
The solution that he doesn’t mention is land taxation, which would impose a significant incentive to end under-occupancy.
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