Propertymark calls for action on empty homes

Showing support for National Empty Homes Week, 28 February to 6 March, Propertymark has written to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities wanting action on empty homes to bolster much-needed supply in the private rented sector and for those looking to move house or get on the housing ladder.

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Empty homes issues

The latest data from Action on Empty Homes shows that 238,306 homes have been empty for over six months, and that there are over 600,000 vacant homes in England. This is more than double the UK Government’s annual housebuilding target. 

While the UK Government has set itself a target of building 300,000 new houses per year by the mid-2020s — with the most recent data for the year ending September 2021 showing 228,370 homes being complete — there are concerns that opportunities to do more to manage the existing and underused stock may be missed.

In a bid to tackle supply issues in the industry, Propertymark has renewed its call for the UK Government to restart the Empty Homes Community Grant Programme. We urge Ministers to consider a scheme like the one in the recent Levelling Up White Paper, to ensure avenues available for people and local authorities to buy, lease and refurbish empty homes to also provide affordable housing.

The introduction of long-term incentives such as discounts of exemptions to property tax will also help to incentivise English councils and property owners to bring properties back to use. This must include removing VAT on home and energy efficiency improvements as well as discounts or exemptions to Council Tax and Stamp Duty when empty properties are purchased and utilised.

Propertymark also believes that supporting the conversion of suitable larger empty commercial premises to residential use can play a valuable role in providing more housing options. Lack of supply in both the sales and rental markets is a major issue for the property sector, with Propertymark member agents reporting high demand outstripping historically low supply.

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National Empty Homes Week

Each year, Action on Empty Homes analyses the Government's official data on long-term empty homes. In its 2021 commentary, data shows that there has been a steady rising in the number of long-term empty homes over the last five years. This is despite the housing crisis in the UK worsening. 

Propertymark is once again supporting National Empty Homes Week to help create awareness around the issue of empty homes in the UK and to back our calls for the UK Government's intervention in order to help boost the housing stock. 

The Community Action on Empty Homes Toolkit, published by Action on Empty Homes, aims to guide local authorities and communities through the process of bringing empty homes into use in order to deliver affordable housing for local people.

Empty homes are a wasted resource and at a time when the housing market is in the grip of unsustainably low levels of stock for sale and for rent, it makes no sense that there are thousands of homes sitting vacant.

The Levelling Up programme places great focus on funding to redevelop brownfield sites for housing, and we believe that the same principle should be applied to bringing unused homes back into use.

Timothy Douglas
Timothy Douglas Head of Policy and Campaigns | Propertymark
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