Housing Plot

Letter to editor The Independent (London) Sir: The solution to the problem of 770,000 empty homes is simple ("When a house is not a home", 12 August) - introduce site value rating. If owners had to pay an annual rate for the plot on which their house stood, irrespective of whether it was empty or not, they would not leave properties empty for years. There would be no point in "riding the boom", as Fiona Brandhorst puts it, because there would be no boom (or indeed any slumps). A house's real price is whatever it costs to build it. If it is not maintained - as empty houses often are not - then it is a depreciating asset. What goes up in value is the site. Site values are created by the community. In particular, it is the local authorities and the Government that finance roads, railways, schools, hospitals, police forces, fire brigades, street lighting, drainage, refuse collection etc that make building land so valuable. To collect this as an annual rate merely returns to the public authorities the money they have spent in creating this value. Geofrey Lee

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