Government data released 11th November 2020, showed how the Coronavirus pandemic can shine a light on the way that we keep on building housing which doesn't house anyone: so homelessness rises, affordability declines and home ownership drops.

Southwark is the canary in this particular coalmine.

(NOTE TO READFERS: This blog was originally published in 2020 - the November 2021 Government data saw Southwark empty homes numbers rise by a further whopping 38%, while those 3,000 so-called second homes or 'furnished empties' that 'appeared' in 2020 are still there in 2021 - for the latest data click here)

Presentation showing data from the online meeting about Southwark's housing on 4th March 2020  here - IMPORTANT NOTE: this presentation contains extra slides not used in the meeting to show those unable to attend further evidence of what is happening to housing in Southwark

The 2020 Government data on empty homes and second homes numbers across the country made for grim reading amidst a national housing crisis. To cut a long story short, numbers of homes not in residential use long-term were up, a lot, by around 20% to over 268,000 long-term empty homes while so-called 'second home' numbers also rose to a further 263,000.

The rise was the biggest on record with long-term empty homes shooting up over 42,500 to 268,385 and second homes numbers rising by 10,000 to 263,000.

Across London the rise in numbers of second homes was 16% (against 4% nationally) but nowhere was it larger or more significant than in the London Borough of Southwark, where numbers of the controversial tax-sheltering category rose by nearly 600% to 3,630 homes which have no residents, just like Southwark's 2,358 long-term empty homes - though those classed as 'officially long-term empty' could at least have their council tax doubled, if they have remained empty for two years.

So where did all these extra 'second homes' in Southwark come from? Many may previously have been found amongst the near 3,000 whole home Airbnb lets recorded in pre-pandemic commercial data for Southwark, what is clear are two things:

1. That they aren't in any real sense 'second homes'.

2. That nobody is living in them currently - they are literally 'empty homes'.

To see all the new London data for both long-term empty and so-called 'second homes' click here

The London borough meeting on housing in Haringey took place online on Tuesday 16th March 2021 click here for info

Analysis by Action on Empty Homes of the official data released this week by the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government reveals that while we spend £1.2billion a year housing 100,000 homeless families in temporary accommodation, hundreds of thousands of homes stand empty and some of the biggest rises in vacancy are where housing demand is greatest.
Long-term empty homes numbers have soared across the country after the biggest increase in numbers on record. In some London Boroughs more than one in every ten homes is now out of residential use long-term, classed as either a long-term empty or as a so-called 'second home' - which also lack any residents. Numbers of long-term empties soared by 20% across the country with rises in 9 in every ten council areas. 
Nationally numbers were up 42,540 to 268,385 while the Government's 'total vacants' figure now stands at nearly half a million (480,000)[i] 
It is worth noting that the Government's 'total' figure excludes a further 210,000 council tax exempt vacants (a category containing over 110,000 homes of the deceased, along with other exemptions) and also excludes the 263,000 'second homes' - of which 3,630 are to be found, with nobody living in them, in Southwark.
Those homes with noone living in them just keep piling up - the more you look for, the more you find. 


Our analysis of the most recent Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government data[i] shows: 

  • A massive year on year rise of 42,540 to a total of 268,385 long-term empty homes in England. 
  • Rises in 9 in every 10 local authorities across England
  • Numbers rising at least 50% in one in every ten council areas 
  • This is the fourth consecutive year in which figures have risen. 
  • This year’s rise of almost 20% means the national total has increased by over a third (34%) since 2016 

    London findings: 
    In London over 30,000 homes lie long-term empty (30,616 in total).  Inner London saw a huge rise of 27%, while outer London also saw a big rise of 21%. As the pandemic decimates the investor-friendly short-let market dominated by Airbnb so-called second homes numbers also soared in the capital by 16%. Total current empties in London (excluding exemptions) stand at 60,684, while in addition a further 52,916 homes with nobody living in them are classed as 'second homes'.
  • The London Borough Southwark saw a rise of almost 600% in the controversial 'second homes' category of so-called residential property - which many argue never houses anyone - in Southwark one home in every 24 now has no residents and in Camden this number is a startling one in 12, while in so-called ‘Grenfell Borough’ Kensington and Chelsea the number is one in every 8 homes without any residents long-term. Nationally 'second homes' now account for another 263,000 homes without residents, many simply empty and never used but sheltered from tax premiums levied on long-term empty homes.
  • In 2019 London councils are spent over £700million on Temporary Accommodation for households they were unable to provide with homes.[ii] 
  • Other cities empties numbers also shot up:
    Other cities facing housing pressures see similar big rises which the pandemic may be exacerbating and where short-let markets are also currently decimated and so-called Airbnb 'party houses' silenced by lockdown:
  • Manchester sees a rise of 19% to 1,455. 
  • Birmingham is up 18% to 5,386 long-term empty homes. 
  • Liverpool is up 17% to 4,631. 
    The usual, under-invested, suspects also featured - and saw rises:
    Other areas in the North, where communities are blighted by under-investment and empty homes figures have long remained stubbornly high also saw further big increases:
  • Bradford now has a staggering 4,091 long-term empty homes (nearly 1 in every 50)
  • while Hartlepool has over 1,000 after a massive 36% increase this year alone. 
  • Middlesborough sees a massive 29% increase to over 1,500 long-term empty homes; 
  • and Grimsby and North East Lincolnshire have 1,636 long-term empty homes (1 in every 45 homes).  

    Meanwhile in England 98,300 homeless families, including over 129,000 children languish in often unsuitable and over-crowded 'temporary accommodation' at a cost to taxpayers of £1.2billion a year[iii]. All this at a time when at a time when we know that overcrowded housing is being linked to the spread of  the corona virus and to higher mortality[iv] 
  • A new national strategy would: