In the face of chronic housing need, the number of long-term empty homes has increased nationally by nearly 10% cent over the past five years, a new report claims.
According to the report, commissioned by the Local Government Association (LGA), more than one million properties across England were unoccupied in 2022. That represents just over 4% of all dwellings – an increase of nearly 60,000 homes since 2018.
These empty properties cover all definitions, types and tenures, the report from the LGA and the Empty Homes Network (EHN) says, with the figures having “risen steadily since the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2013, the government introduced an empty homes premium intended to encourage owners to bring empty properties back into use, the numbers continue to rise across the UK.
Many of these homes have not yet reached a stage of deterioration that may prompt concern, but the LGA points out that every empty home removes a property from the housing market, and with it the chance for someone to be housed.
Councillor Darren Rodwell, the LGA’s housing spokesperson, said: “At a time when we face a chronic housing shortage across the country it is wrong for so many homes to be left empty. Councils work hard to address the issue, but the existing measures are clearly falling short.
“This report, and the best practice proposals and recommendations within it, aim to support councils in their efforts to reduce the numbers of empty homes, increase housing supply, encourage inward investment, and provide a better quality of life for residents and neighbours affected by the issues empty homes cause.”
There are currently more than one million people on council housing waiting lists, and 104,000 households living in temporary accommodation, according to the LGA. Even bringing just 10% of these empty homes back into use could help to find permanent homes for these households in temporary accommodation, it adds.
Councils face “significant ongoing challenges”, the organisation points out: Frozen Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates, the rising cost of living, the closure of Afghan bridging hotels, wider asylum and resettlement pressures, and an insufficient supply of affordable housing. These are all driving increases in homelessness, and reducing councils’ ability to source suitable accommodation.
Adam Cliff, EHN’s secretary and policy lead, said: “Empty Homes are a hugely wasted resource, and at over one million empty homes nationally, this figure represents the equivalent to the number of total dwellings in the city of Manchester.
“At a time where the demand housing is so high, working to bring empty homes back into use can not only support meeting this need, but can encourage inward investment, improve communities and enhance the lives of those who currently live near empty homes.
“This report aims to set a standard from which councils can build a solid foundation to deal with empty homes, and provides practical and evidence based ideas which will undoubtedly prove useful to councils and their officers.
“While the numbers across all empty homes categories have shown an increase over the past five years, the report aims to address this by equipping councils and officers with tools to assist in data cleansing, case progression, and the overarching empty homes journey through the case progression flowchart.”
Rodwell added: “Councils share a collective national ambition to tackle local housing challenges. The government should also support this ambition by using the Autumn Statement to implement our six-point action plan so that councils can resume their historic role as a major builder of affordable homes.”
Image credit: Deatonphotos/Shutterstock
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