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Empty homes in England ‘a national disgrace’ as numbers near 700,000

Nick Cheek
Written By:
Nick Cheek

The number of empty homes in England now stands at 676,452, a rise of almost 23,5000 or 3.6% over the past 12 months.

Leeds Building Society, which analysed government figures, found that 248,633 homes were classed as long-term empty properties that had been vacant for over six months, an increase of 4.8%.

The majority of regions reported an increase in long-term empty properties, with the North West the only one to report a fall of 0.1% to 40,704.

The lender said that this could make a “significant dent” in the current housing market as homeless charity Shelter has said that over four million homes are needed in the UK.

Leeds Building Society has said that the number of empty homes peaked at over 738,000 in 2008 and then gradually fell until 2017 when they started to increase again.

The current figures are in line with the number of empty homes seen in 2012.

Regional differences

The North West had the largest number of empty homes at 101,770, up 1.3% year on year. This was followed by the South East at 99,829, an increase of 3.8%, and London at 89,508, which is a rise of 2%.

The North East had the lowest number of empty homes at 41,596, which is an increase of 1.7%, followed by the East Midlands at 59,581, a rise of 4%. The South West reported 66,839 empty homes, up 7.8%.

Why are homes empty?

Leeds Building Society noted that properties could remain empty due to inheritance issues; previously rented property needing substantial repairs; redevelopment taking time; owners unable to fund repairs; properties signalled for demotion; and owners holding onto properties in hope of an increase in house prices.

The firm said that repurposing and retrofitting existing housing stock, including empty homes, should be a “key government property”.

Empty homes could be a solution to housing issues

Martese Carton, director of mortgage distribution at Leeds Building Society, said. “Although the current number of empty properties is a national disgrace, there is a growing sense that these empty properties could provide some of the solutions to the housing crisis the country faces.

“We also know that for many people, empty properties can be a blight on local communities. Therefore, National Empty Homes Week presents a great opportunity to shine a light on how empty properties can be brought back to life and how local people are really helping to regenerate their communities.

“Last November, we published a public policy paper looking at how the Government could tackle the UK’s homeownership crisis. Part of the report looked at how we could make use of our existing housing stock.

“There is little doubt that the refurbishment and repurposing of old, or empty properties, makes great financial, economic, and social sense as it could provide affordable homes for hundreds of thousands of people.”