The London Borough of Kensington & Chelsea has asked for new powers that would enable it to house social tenants within the hundreds of empty private properties within its wards, known as ‘ghost homes’.
The borough’s deputy leader Kim Taylor-Smith has written to housing minister Kit Malthouse to request the powers, which would enable it to open up 621 properties within the borough which have lain empty for more than two years, many of which are worth tens of millions of pounds.
Owners would be given tax incentives when their properties were rented out which, Taylor-Smith claims, would make it “easier, quicker and more financially viable to target all empty properties to alleviate pressing housing needs”.
If granted the powers, the borough’s move would set a precedent for councils across the UK to utilise empty properties to accommodate those seeking housing.
The move is part of the London Borough of Kensington & Chelsea’s attempts to improve its reputation following the Grenfell tower fire.
Its property management arm was heavily criticised for ignoring warnings about the safety of the Grenfell tower block, and its housing officials have also been condemned over how long they have taken to rehouse survivors.
If Kensington & Chelsea were granted the new powers, then the ‘ghost homes’ involved would include several belonging to high profile individuals.
In August the borough mistakenly emailed out a list of uninhabited properties to residents including a mansion block owned by an offshore company controlled by Christian Candy as well as homes belonging to the former mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg, several eastern European and Middle Eastern billionaires and a BBC executive.
Candy subsequently said his property on the list (main pic) was ‘unsafe and uninhabitable’ and that he had plans to demolish the block, which is in Holland Park.