To reduce the number of long-term empty homes, Action on Empty Homes and us are calling for central government to establish a new £185 million Empty Homes Fund to provide the targeted national investment needed to bring 15,000 empty homes back into circulation, based on local match-funding. Similar to earlier targeted funds, this approach aims to provide financial and practical support to owners of these empty homes to help bring the properties back into circulation, where they wish to do so.
The fund would also enable local authorities, social landlords and community-based organisations to buy or lease empty properties to refurbish them, supporting local businesses such as small builders. The Empty Homes Fund would also support wider community-based regeneration approaches that tackle the underlying causes of empty homes in these areas. By increasing the housing supply, the programme could reduce public spending on temporary accommodation and housing benefit spent in the private rental sector.
Reducing the number of empty homes also has huge cross-party parliamentary support. A ComRes poll of MPs commissioned by Action on Empty Homes shows that 72 per cent of MPs polled rank action on empty homes as one of their top two priorities for combating the current housing crisis. More than 80 per cent support targeted funding for local authorities, charities and local organisations to buy, lease or refurbish empty homes.
Joe Garner, chief executive of Nationwide, said:
“Concerted action and funding are needed from Government and the housing sector to identify and tackle the growing issue of empty homes. It’s a missed opportunity that there are 200,000 empty properties that could house people desperately needing a home of their own.”
“There’s no silver bullet to the housing shortage but alongside new housebuilding, empty homes can make a significant difference – these properties are often good quality and can be converted for a fairly modest cost”
“As a mutual our core purpose is to support people into homes so we are calling to combine central government grants, local authority loans and council tax breaks for people taking them on. We believe that these policies will encourage people to refurbish their empty homes or sell them to local authorities, social landlords or community-based organisations.”
Will McMahon, Director of Action on Empty Homes said:
“With homeless numbers at their highest levels in over a decade, it makes no sense to leave hundreds of thousands of homes standing long-term empty. Like the housing crisis, empty homes are a national problem, two-thirds of councils have rising numbers. National problems need national solutions.”
“The Government must provide a solution for every street in Britain. Significant investment is needed to turn around communities that have faced under-investment for decades, and all local councils need new powers to take action. England’s 216,000 empty homes are everyone’s problem and everyone’s opportunity. The time for action is now.”
1A long-term empty home is defined as a property which has been substantially unfurnished and unoccupied for more than six months
2Excludes Isles of Scilly and City of London
3At 54% annual growth in the number of empty homes, there would be 14,913 empty homes in Hartlepool in 2025. This equivalent to 34% of current total stock (43,802)