New research from national campaigning charity Empty Homes shows the proportion of homes that are long-term empty, based on government statistics, is greatest in the north of England.
‘Long-term empty’ is defined as those properties which have been empty for more than six months.
The research, supported by Aldermore, explores what might be behind this, including how empty homes relate to deprivation, house prices and the issues that some communities face, such as poor housing in parts of the private rented sector.
The report calls for the government to re-establish dedicated funding for local authority areas with high concentrations of empty properties to enable more homes to be brought back into use, as part of a wider approach to regenerating neighbourhoods.
The reports also calls on the government to support the creation of at least a further 20,000 affordable homes from long term empty properties by 2020 across England. It is envisaged that the government would need to invest about £450 million over the next five years to achieve this.
According to government statistics, there are over 200,000 homes that are classified as long-term empty. This represents 0.88% of the country’s housing stock.
The North East has the highest recorded proportion of homes that are long-term empty in England (1.34% of the region’s housing stock classified as long-term empty), followed by the North West (1.27%) and Yorkshire and Humber (1.15%). London has the lowest percentage of long-term empty homes in England (0.6% of the region’s housing stock is recorded as long-term empty).
The research found that there are still significant levels of long-term empty homes in areas, which were Housing Market Renewal (HMR) Pathfinder areas. These HMR Pathfinder areas ran until 2010, when they were replaced by the coalition government’s ‘Cluster of Empty Homes Fund’ which set aside up to £60m to deal with the worst concentrations of empty homes. The new government has yet to confirm what action it will take to support local authorities with high concentrations of empty homes.
Empty Homes said that without dedicated empty homes grant funding (which ended in March 2015) there is the possibility that bids to create affordable homes from long-term empty homes across England will lose out to bids for large scale new build schemes. It is clear from the report that both bringing empty homes back into use and building new houses are important in addressing the chronic shortage of affordable housing in England, it said.
The report also highlights the research undertaken at the end of 2014, which showed that 78% of British voters thought the government should place a higher priority on tackling empty homes, with 36% saying that empty homes were a blight on their local area.
Helen Williams, CEO of the Empty Homes Charity, said: “With so many people priced out of decent housing across England, there is an imperative to make the most of the empty homes we have in all parts of England, alongside building new homes that are within the reach of people on low to ordinary incomes.”
Charles Haresnape, group managing director of mortgages at Aldermore Bank, which supported the research, said: “The lack of housing supply is the biggest challenge facing the housing market today. Until 1990, the number of homes built every year was over 200,000, but the total has only exceeded that level in four years since, during the period between 2004 and 2007.
“To meet current demand we need to take a two-pronged approach; refurbishing empty homes and bringing them back into use, combined with building new homes.”