Lewis defends vacant building credit as helping to 'lower housing costs'

Planning minister Brandon Lewis has blamed 'levies and charges' for pushing up London house prices in a response to questions from MPs on the controversial vacant building credit.

London: MPs want vacant building credit scrapped
London: MPs want vacant building credit scrapped

Responding to written questions put by Labour MP for Dulwich and West Norwood Tessa Jowell and shadow housing minister Emma Reynolds about the impact of financial credit for vacant buildings and the effect of the measure on affordable housing provision, Lewis said that "one of the reasons why London house prices are so high is all the levies and charges placed on them" and claimed government measures "will help lower housing costs and increase housing supply".

New guidance, which came into force in November, says that when a vacant building is brought back into use or demolished to be replaced by a new building, the developer should be offered a financial credit equivalent to the existing gross floor space of relevant vacant buildings when the local planning authority calculates affordable housing contributions.

Defending the new guidance in a written answer, Lewis said it is "crazy" to be putting "stealth taxes" on empty and redundant buildings being brought back into productive use, because this "hinders regeneration and discourages new housing being created from conversions".

He said he did not believe the vacant building credit will have "any significant adverse effect" on the government’s affordable housing programme, adding that the government is "on track to deliver a further 275,000 new affordable homes" in the next parliament.

Last week, a cross-party group of London politicians called on Lewis to immediately suspend the vacant building credit.

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