Housing

Long-term empty homes increase again – how can we Fill ‘Em Up?

The latest government figures show a five per cent rise in the number of properties left vacant for long periods

Empty homes

The number of properties left vacant has risen for a second year running as Britain’s housing crisis continues to intensify.

There are now 216,186 empty properties in the UK as the last two years have seen an end to the decade-long fall since 2008.

This year saw a 5.3 per cent jump in the grand total up to October 2018, which modular homes provider Project Etopia estimated to be worth £53.6bn in today’s housing market.

The scandal of empty homes at a time when so many are finding it difficult to access accommodation is just one reason why pro-growth tax is needed

They identified the biggest rises in Portsmouth, with a 101.5 per cent increase to 939 vacant homes, while Birmingham had the highest volume in the UK with 4,283 homes.

Failing to make use of the housing stock we already have is of crucial importance to end the housing crisis. A failure to build social housing, particularly social rent homes, has seen mounting queues as well as up to 320,000 people placed in temporary accommodation or even left homeless, according to Shelter figures.

But homes left in disrepair or wealthy home owners who have left second homes empty to accrue values are exacerbating the problem and that’s why the Residential Landlords Association are among many campaigners to call for taxation to discourage this.

The RLA is asking the government to scrap its additional stamp duty levy on the purchase of new homes to rent when landlords invest in long-term empty dwellings.

“The scandal of empty homes at a time when so many are finding it difficult to access accommodation is just one reason why pro-growth tax is needed,” said John Stewart, Policy Manager for the RLA. “The government should support good landlords to do what they have always been good at – investing in property and bringing it back into long term use.”

The Big Issue knows just how important it is to make the most of the homes we have in the fight to end homelessness. Our Fill ‘Em Up campaign kicked off in 2015 to do just that.

Since then, the government has attempted to crack down on second homes by taxing home owners.

The empty homes bill was given Royal Assent last November and that has paved the way for local authorities to raise council tax by up to 100 per cent if a property is left empty for five years.

Speaking on the new empty homes stats, Housing Minister Kit Malthouse pointed to the new powers and said that he expects councils to “make full use of these so everyone has a roof over their head”.

But while the government aims to move closer to their long-held target of building 300,000 new homes per year in the mid-2020s, measures like the empty homes bill are just the start to fill Britain’s housing void.

Joseph Daniels, CEO of Project Etopia, said: “This remains a national scandal that isn’t going away, pointing to a collective failure to really get to grips with this problem. The stubbornly high number of empty homes is compounding the housing market’s deeply entrenched problems, with lack of supply remaining a key driver of high prices and low affordability.”

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