#ExpertView: Tackling England's Empty Homes
Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) partner organisation, Propertymark is a core member of a coalition for community investment formed by the charity Empty Homes, which launched in July 2018, and aims to combat the waste of long-term empty homes across England through community investment. Emily Carter, Policy and Campaigns Officer at Propertymark, explains.
Recently, English local authorities recorded around 205,000 homes are sitting empty in the long-term (more than six months). With the Government noting that 300,000 homes need to be built each year to combat the housing crisis, Propertymark believes that by lessening the waste of empty homes it may help in alleviating the housing shortage.
The coalition are campaigning for community investment, as recent research shows that neighbourhoods with higher levels of empty homes tend to exist in low income areas, with lower house prices and abnormally high levels of substandard private rented housing. The issues in these areas boil down to more than just a lack of suitable housing.
At Propertymark we see empty homes as a wasted resource. We believe more needs to be done to get vacant properties back on the market for would-be home buyers or landlords. We support the use of existing enforcement powers against those leaving property empty, but the Government must also look at ways to encourage and incentivise individuals, landlords, local authorities and community-based housing providers to bring empty homes back into use.
Other core members of the coalition include: Federation of Master Builders; Locality; National Community Land Trust Network; Northern Housing Consortium; and fellow TDS partner, Residential Landlords Association (RLA).
What is the campaign aiming to achieve?
The coalition is calling upon the Government to establish an investment programme targeted at areas with high levels of long-term empty homes, to enable community-based organisations; local authorities; housing associations; and other housing providers to:
- Buy, lease and refurbish empty homes to provide affordable housing
- Deliver improvements to tackle the underlying cause of empty homes in neighbourhoods with higher levels
Through central Government investment – ending the waste of empty homes is a possibility. By promoting isolated examples of good practice, we hope this can be turned into a nationally enabled programme of locally led action to:
- Turn disadvantaged areas around
- Put in place preventative policy, to stop the reoccurrence of wasted housing
- Significantly reduce the waste of long-term empty homes
Long-term empty homes recently saw a 2.6% increase, this is the first rise since 2008. This highlights why it is vital that Propertymark continues to lobby the Government in combatting the number of wasted houses.
Every year, the charity organises an Empty Homes Week. It is an opportunity for local authorities, housing providers, community-led organisations and others to hold events to educate on the work they are doing to tackle empty homes. This year, Empty Homes Week will take place from 15-21 October.
- The majority of long-term empty homes in England are privately owned.
- 97% of local authorities with generally high levels of empty homes cite owners’ inability to fund repairs as a reason homes remain empty.
- 85,856 of empty homes are in the Band A Council Tax Band (lowest value properties)
- 57% of councils with high levels of long-term empty homes say there should be a speedier process for obtaining compulsory purchase orders on long-term empty homes.
About the Author
Emily Carter – Policy & Campaigns Officer, Propertymark
Emily joined ARLA Propertymark having previously worked as a Letting Agent whilst studying as a postgraduate. During her undergraduate degree in Politics, Emily worked voluntarily in various MP’s offices, aiding with casework and correspondence. Alongside the Senior Policy & Campaigns Officer, she helps ARLA Propertymark members understand key policy issues and legislative changes. Emily responds to consultations, creates comprehensive fact sheets on upcoming and existing legislation and drafts briefings for a variety of audiences from members to MPs.
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