Housing

Empty Homes Week is aiming to Fill ‘Em Up to tackle the housing crisis

Newly-named Action on Empty Homes is urging support to allow local authorities to bring empty dwellings back into use – but one is targeting multi-million mansions

Empty homes

Campaigners have called on the government to support local authorities to bring vacant dwellings back into use.

Newly-named Action on Empty Homes, who were previously known as Empty Homes, are using this week’s Empty Homes Week for more than a rebrand.

The group sit at the head of the national Coalition of Community Investment, a group of organisations that are aiming to slash the number of empty homes with more than 605,000 left vacant across England. Out of that total, 205,000 are long-term empty homes found in areas plagued by under-investment.

The advantages to bring these buildings back into use are obvious. In a time when the answer to the housing crisis is building more homes, it’s a sensible approach to make the most of the disused dwellings we already have.

That’s why The Big Issue started the Fill ‘Em Up campaign in 2015.

And that’s why local authorities like Kensington and Chelsea Council have called for greater powers to bring so-called “ghost homes” back into use.

There are 621 houses standing empty in the area – which sits in the shadow of Grenfell Tower – with some mansions worth up to £30m.

Deputy leader Kim Taylor-Smith has called on housing minister Kit Malthouse to relax rules that prevent multi-million pound mansions from being occupied unless, despite being empty for two years or more.

The area has faced a chronic shortage of social housing, while 27 per cent of top-band empty homes in the whole of England are in Kensington and Chelsea.

The new director of Action on Empty Homes, Will McMahon, said “It is very worrying that the number of long-term empty homes has grown by 5,000 in the last year. Homes that would be more than affordable stand empty across the country because of the lack of a government strategy to support councils to bring them back into use.

“It is good that government has just scrapped the cap on council’s borrowing to build new council housing in coming years. But what we ask is why not back those councils with the powers and finance to bring hundreds of thousands of existing wasted empty homes back into use for England’s homeless’ right now?”

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