The news that Southwark Council has criticised the vacant building credit as ‘unjust’ will add further fuel to the debate around this measure (20.02.15).
However, the overall principle of removing a tax on empty buildings by not requiring residential developers to provide affordable housing, if they develop an empty building, is a good one.
Without doubt, the City of London needs to protect its employment status, but outside that area and with the UK (and particularly the South East) suffering a huge shortage of housing, the government is correct in focusing on improving housing supply.
There is a risk that developers intentionally empty buildings to take advantage of the credit and Southwark Council clearly wants to introduce strict guidelines as to what constitutes a vacant building (and ensure it has been marketed for two years) as developers will be able to drastically reduce their obligations.
Construction has a huge multiplier effect on the economy and boosting the industry can only be good news for employment figures.
Furthermore, without an increase in housing supply, we run the risk of increasing housing poverty, where individuals spend too high a proportion of their income on mortgages or rent, and our housing benefit bill (for people in work) will remain in the billions.
Stacy Eden, head of property and construction, Crowe Clark Whitehill