Number of empty homes hits record low
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing
Call to quadruple council tax for long-term empty homes
The number of empty homes in England has dropped to the lowest level ever recorded.
A massive drop of 75,000 in 2013 left a total 635,127 vacant properties across the country.
The figure peaked in 1994, when 868,000 homes were recorded as empty, but has gradually declined since.
There has also been a large drop in the number of long-term empty homes (properties that have been vacant for over six months), their numbers dropping by over 27,000 to a new record low of 232,600.
The best performing regions were the North West and London. However, the North West, with 130,081 units, still has the greatest amount of void homes, accounting for 21% of the country-wide total.
Currently the highest vacancy rates are all in Lancashire. In Burnley, Hyndburn and Blackburn more than 6% of the housing stock is empty.
In London, the vacancy rate has dropped below 2% for the first time, the figure falling by 13,144 to 59,313. However, the number of long-term empties in the capital was virtually unchanged.
Campaigning charity Empty Homes has welcomed the figures. Chief executive David Ireland said: "It’s fantastic to see such a large reduction in the number of empty homes.
"Successive governments have introduced measures to help, but with well over one and a half million families currently on housing waiting lists there is still more to be done. Housing will be a key battle area in next year’s general election and we hope that all parties will continue to have this issue right at the top of their manifestos.”
“The huge drop in empty homes we have seen this year is down to a number of factors: The improving housing market has made it more viable to renovate some derelict houses.
"The government’s empty homes grants programme is beginning to bear fruit, but the major factor is almost certainly the effect of changes to council tax charging. This has created strong incentives for owners to get their properties into use as soon as possible to avoid incurring extra council tax.”
But he warned: “Tax changes often create an immediate impact as people adapt to minimise their liability, but there is no guarantee that this effect will automatically continue. Local authorities and government will need to work hard to ensure the fantastic progress seen this year is maintained.”