Over the last five years, there has been an alarming increase of nearly 10 per cent in the number of long-term vacant homes nationwide, representing just over one per cent of the country’s housing inventory. This revelation comes from a recent report commissioned by the Local Government Association (LGA) and the Empty Homes Network. The report discloses a consistent rise in vacant homes across all classifications, types, and occupancy statuses, surpassing statistics recorded in 2018.

The data reveals that in 2022, more than one million properties in England were unoccupied, constituting 4.01 per cent of all dwellings, signifying an increase of nearly 60,000 homes. Despite implementing an empty homes premium in 2013, aimed at motivating property owners to bring vacant properties back into use, and the dedicated efforts of councils, the numbers persistently rise, not only in England but also across Wales and Scotland.

While many of these homes have yet to reach a concerning level of deterioration, each vacant property acts as a withdrawal from the housing market. This diminishes opportunities for individuals on housing registers to secure accommodation, impedes first-time buyers from making purchases, and hinders those aspiring to climb the property ladder. In a time of acute housing demand, both the government and councils prioritise providing safe, affordable, and sustainable housing.

Challenges and Recommendations for Councils

Amidst significant and persistent challenges, councils strive to ensure everyone has access to housing to meet their current and future needs. Factors such as frozen Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates, escalating living costs, the closure of Afghan bridging hotels, wider asylum and resettlement pressures, and a shortage of affordable housing contribute to a surge in homelessness. These challenges impact the housing landscape and impede councils from effectively securing suitable accommodation for those in need.

Addressing this issue becomes crucial with over one million individuals on council housing waiting lists and 104,000 households in temporary accommodation. The potential remedy lies in bringing just 10 per cent of these vacant homes back into use, presenting a significant opportunity to provide permanent homes for those currently residing in temporary accommodations.

Councillor Darren Rodwell, Housing spokesperson for the LGA, emphasises the critical housing shortage nationwide and calls for government support in implementing a six-point action plan outlined in the Autumn Statement. Meanwhile, Adam Cliff, Secretary and Policy Lead for the Empty Homes Network, underscores the vast potential of over one million vacant homes nationally and advocates for their revitalisation to meet high housing demands, encourage investment, and enhance communities. The report aims to equip councils with practical tools and evidence-based ideas to address the increase in vacant homes over the past five years.

Free Tracing Service: Empty Homes Owners

Finders International’s Empty Homes service can help local authorities, housing associations, and other organisations identify and contact the owners of empty properties, allowing for a collaborative effort to bring these homes back into use. By doing so, we can reduce the impact of the built environment on climate change and provide secure housing for families in need.