The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill published 11th May offers new powers to councils to tax long-term empties and second homes.

The main proposed changes in this area, alongside a raft of proposals relating to planning and local democracy bring council powers over second and long-term empty homes into closer alignment.

Put simply when the Bill becomes law councils will be able to adopt the power to double council tax on both types of empty home after a year of empty status.

However so-called 'second homes' will not be subject to the escalating scale of 200% extra charged annually after 5 years out of use, nor the maximum 300% additional council tax chargeable after ten years without residents.

Local campaigners who have been looking to the Government for new powers to constrain the growth of short lettings and license these, or to impose limits on the use of newbuild homes as so-called second homes or holiday lets, will be scrutinising the wider planning proposals to determine whether anything on offer in the legislation meets these needs.

Recent media coverage in response to the proposals has highlighted this apparent deficit, with the Daily Mail citing concerns from Cornish politicians that the proposals lack substance

As scrutiny of the Bill begins, communities across the country will be making their own assessments.

What is welcome however is the recognition that two years empty is too long to wait before tax premiums kick in, as there is a perceived danger that this signals a lack of urgency to owners reluctant to bring homes into use, when the nation is facing an acute housing crisis.

Likewise the new powers to increase taxation on second homes, or 'furnished empties' as some councils term them, will be welcomed by local politicians who have been frustrated by the ability of councils in Wales to make these changes while English councils currently cannot.

What appears lacking however, is any new national Empty Homes investment programme to help councils bring homes into use quicker.

Local campaigners often make the point that local councils need 'carrots as well as sticks' to bring more homes back to use, as some owners simply lack the means, or ability, to do so quickly.

Calls for improvements to the under-used Empty Dwelling Management Order powers by councils, which allows them to take over homes kept empty by unresponsive owners, also seem to have gone unanswered.

Current powers are highly constrained by ministerial guidance and changes to this have been sought by councils including the Conservative leadership of so-called 'Grenfell borough' Kensington and Chelsea, as the power has slipped into under-use.

We will continue to update our commentary on the bill as the debate continues, but for many communities hollowed out by second homes and Airbnbs and where communities are priced out of access to affordable housing it may be too little too late - or at any rate not yet enough to make a difference.

Critically, this has driven a housing affordability crisis, which it has been argued has been a factor in recent local election losses for the governing Conservative party and these proposals may not be enough to turn this sentiment around.

For more on responses to the growth of Airbnb and strategies employed in Spain and the Netherlands see the discussion and video here

As the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill makes its progress through parliament scrutiny of the effectiveness of promised action against the second home and Airbnb explosions are likely to increase. And already Conservative-led councils such as Cornwall, who welcomed the new taxation proposals, are calling for so-called 'County Devolution Deals' featured in the Bill to allow councils to limit second home purchases and license Airbnbs.