Empty houses. You may have spotted one or two at the end of your street, or noticed of a long row of them in a neglected neighbourhood, and wondered why once-fine buildings were going to waste.
New analysis of the problem shows there are a staggering 200,000 long-term empty homes in England. These properties, unused for six months or more, have a combined estimated value of £43 billion.
Outside of London, Birmingham has the biggest problem. There are 4,397 long-term empties in the city worth an estimated £956 million, according to research by Property Partner based on the latest local government figures.
In the capital, where the housing shortage is most intense, almost 20,000 homes worth a whopping £9.4 billion in total are still lying empty.
These figures lay bare the huge amount of housing stock lying empty across the country
While a lot of empty homes are the product of failed or stalled regeneration schemes, many are second or third homes privately owned by people who are hoping for their value to increase before selling.
The Big Issue has urged central government and local authorities to address Britain’s chronic housing problem by incentivizing use and exploring new ways to refurbish the nation’s derelict stock.
Our Fill ‘Em Up campaign has explored various ways to restore empty buildings as a way of increasing housing supply.
Many councils have tightened up on discounts on council tax for un-lived in homes, and some social enterprises and community land trusts (CLTs) like Granby 4 Streets in Liverpool have brought long-derelict streets back into use.
There is also some good news from the latest numbers. Several central London boroughs like Lambeth and Newham have recorded falls in the number of unused homes.
“Councils have had the power to apply to seize empty homes since 2006 and huge advances have been made over the last ten years,” Dan Gandesha, chief executive of Property Partner. “(But) these figures lay bare the huge amount of housing stock lying empty across the country.”