National Empty Homes Week 2021 starts 15th Feb as we call for action on massive rise in empties

Action on Empty Homes calls for Government action on escalating numbers of long-term empty homes across the country.

Numbers of long-term empty homes rose in 9 out of ten council areas[i] in 2020, our analysis of the latest Government data shows (for more including details on all local authorities click here).

Numbers rose by almost a fifth (19%) to 268,385.

The 42,540 rise to a total of 268,385 long-term empty homes in 2020 was the fourth successive annual rise in numbers, but larger than the previous three years’ rises combined.

Yet numbers on housing waiting lists and in council-provided Temporary Accommodation also rose to new heights with 127,000 children currently experiencing lockdown in such insecure accommodation[ii].

This is why at the start of National Empty Homes Week, Action on Empty Homes will call on the government to launch a national Empty Homes Strategy[iii] backed by a £200m fund and new powers to support local authorities in starting to bring the 268,385 long-term empty homes in England back into use.

A new national Government Empty Homes Strategy would:

  • Create a £200m national fund to support councils in bringing tens of thousands of long-term empty homes back into use through a locally focused programme of grants and loans.
  • Introduce new powers to allow local councils to bring empty homes back into use – principally an improved Empty Dwelling Management Order power and streamlining of Compulsory Purchase Order powers (a call backed by the Local Government Association[ii])
  • Ensure owners taking advantage of this programme agree nomination rights and fair rents with councils, so that homes brought into use can help alleviate local housing need and reduce the £1.2bn billion national temporary accommodation bill.
  • Dedicate funding for local authorities to help local community-led housing projects which sustainably refurbish long-term empty homes and neglected buildings to create high quality, well-insulated, affordable homes, through an expansion of the Community Housing Fund[iv].

For full map visual and regional totals click here

Useful links:

[i] Government Data Release (Nov 2020) : https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/council-taxbase-2020-in-england

Action on Empty Homes Analysis of datahttps://www.actiononemptyhomes.org/news/massive-20-rise-in-empty-homes-up-over-42000-to-268385-while-100000-families-are-stuck-in-temporary-accommodation

[ii] Local Government Association Media Release Jan 13th 2020: https://www.local.gov.uk/around-450-primary-schools-worth-children-stuck-temporary-accommodation-during-lockdown

[iii] Action on Empty Homes calls on Government to introduce a new national Empty Homes Strategy and to back this with an investment programme to support locally-led action through councils:

Action on Empty Homes call on Government to adopt a new national empty homes strategy to deliver additional housing supply for those in most housing need, utilising properties currently left vacant or in need of renovation (details of recommendations for Government above).

Recommendations for local authorities

  1. Local authorities should have an empty homes strategy for their area, with a clear delivery plan to reduce the number of long-term empty homes. The plan should include arrangements for working in partnership with other housing providers and with community-based organisations.
  2. Local authorities and social housing providers should seek funding and allocate resources to buy and refurbish empty properties for people in housing need.
  3. Local authorities should work with owners of long-term empty properties to support them in bringing vitally needed homes back into housing use. Employing dedicated empty homes staff can ensure the council is able to act on information about empty homes, assist neighbours of problem empty properties which are magnets for crime and vandalism and take enforcement action where necessary.

[iv] Government announce new Community Housing Fund to support community-based organisations to bring forward local housing projects for Affordable Homes Programme, backed by £4 million of support for local plan (30th Jan 2021):

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/all-new-developments-must-meet-local-standards-of-beauty-quality-and-design-under-new-rules