More needs to be done to tackle empty homes

At the end of November, the Rt Hon Christopher Pincher MP, Minister of State for Housing, responded to a letter which Propertymark wrote campaigning for action on empty homes, asking what measures the UK Government is taking to improve the situation and get more empty homes back into use.

The latest UK Government data shows that over 216,000 homes in England have been empty for over six months. In total, over 600,000 homes are currently vacant in England, more than the UK Government’s housebuilding target of 300,000 per year. Propertymark believes empty homes are a wasted resource and more needs to be done to get vacant properties back on the market for would-be home buyers or landlords.

In our letter to the Minister earlier this year, Propertymark outlined that the UK Government need to do more to bring empty homes back into use by:

  • Restarting the Empty Homes Community Grants Programme, as it is vital that there are avenues available for people and local authorities to buy, lease, and refurbish empty homes, providing affordable housing.
  • Commissioning a study to understand and ultimately deliver improvements to tackle the underlying cause of empty homes in neighbourhoods with higher levels.
  • Providing long-term incentives to encourage empty homes being brought back into use, such as discounts or exemptions to council tax and SDLT.

In Mr Pincher’s response he stated that “the Government's position is that it is for local housing authorities to decide when to use their powers to deal with empty properties, and they have the flexibility to focus on locally determined priorities and allocate their resources accordingly.

“The Government believes legislating various powers for local authorities to use accordingly, strikes the right balance between encouraging better use of the existing housing stock and having no unintended consequences.” In light of this response, Propertymark would like to highlight that 57 per cent of Councils with high levels of long-term empty homes say there should be a speedier process for obtaining compulsory purchase orders and more needs to be done to ensure local authorities can work with owners to bring properties back into use.

Going forward

Pincher states that the UK Government is committed to the issue of tackling empty homes but collective efforts at present are focused on protecting people during the COVID-19 outbreak. Propertymark will however continue to raise these matters with the UK Government and politicians as we believe this is a pressing issue that needs to be addressed.

Find out more about what Propertymark called for in our initial letter.