National Empty Homes Week 15 21 February 2021: Action on Empty Homes calls for Government action on escalating numbers of long-term empty homes across the country.

Numbers of long-term empty homes rose in 9 out of ten council areas[i], latest Government data shows. Yet numbers on housing waiting lists and in council-provided Temporary Accommodation also rose to new heights with 127,000 children currently experiencing lockdown in such insecure accommodation[ii].

This is why at the start of National Empty Homes Week, Action on Empty Homes is calling on the government to launch a national Empty Homes Strategy[iii] backed by a £200m fund to support local authorities in starting to bring the 268,385 long-term empty homes in England back into use.

Director of Action on Empty Homes Will McMahon said, In 2020 there was a 20% rise in long term empty homes numbers[iv] with increases in nine out of every ten local council areas. That is a national scandal of wasted homes that mirrors our national housing crisis and that calls into question why these homes are not being brought back to use to help address that.

Not all empty homes are in need of refurbishment, though many would benefit from the type of Government-backed investment programme we saw working well until it was scrapped in 2015. There will certainly be unsold newbuilds, over-priced luxury apartments and Covid-emptied Airbnbs in this Government data, as well as poorly insulated terraces or run-down properties in need of refurbishment. But what all these homes have in common is that no one lives there.

That why we call for a new programme of Government investment and why we back local councils calls for better and simpler powers to act where owners and landlords wont or can’t.”

We also back calls from the Local Government Association for Government to offer councils improved powers to acquire empty homes and put them to use to help them in dealing with the sharp end of our national housing crisis which sees 127,240 children and their families trapped in insecure, sub-standard and often over-crowded Temporary Accommodation during our current national lockdown[v]

Enquiries: Chris Bailey on 07979 647 237 [email protected]  

National Empty Homes Week 2021 - Monday 15 February to Sunday 21 February:

The 42,540 rise to a total of 268,385 long-term empty homes in 2020 was the fourth successive annual rise in numbers, but larger than the previous three years’ rises combined.

Every year, local authorities see National Empty Homes Week as an opportunity inform people in their area about what advice and assistance is available locally to tackle empty homes. The Week offers councils the chance to celebrate successes and reflect on what more needs to be done to bring empty properties back into use to help meet housing needs and address residents’ concerns about neighbourhood blight.

Action during Empty Homes Week - Councils will:

  1. Promote incentives schemes which encourage property owners to bring empty homes into use and to move underutilised or empty homes into longer-term stable lettings; as well as referencing existing enforcement and taxation powers where relevant.
  2. Use the Empty Homes Week logo in online information and communications activity to help ensure that together we create a greater call for national action and investment, as well as promoting local innovation and enforcement.
  3. Many local councils will reference the call for improved powers to act on empty homes, made by both the Local Government Association and Action on Empty Homes

Action on Empty Homes call on Government to adopt a new national empty homes strategy to deliver additional housing supply for those in most housing need, utilising properties currently left vacant or in need of renovation, and to back this with significant targeted funding and new powers:

A new national Government Empty Homes Strategy would:

  • Create a £200m national fund to support councils in bringing tens of thousands of long-term empty homes back into use through a locally focused programme of grants and loans.
  • Introduce new powers to allow local councils to bring empty homes back into use – principally an improved Empty Dwelling Management Order power and streamlining of Compulsory Purchase Order powers
  • Ensure owners taking advantage of this programme agree nomination rights and fair rents with councils, so that homes brought into use can help alleviate local housing need and reduce the £1.2bn billion national temporary accommodation bill.
  • Dedicate funding for local authorities to help local community-led housing projects which sustainably refurbish long-term empty homes and neglected buildings to create high quality, well-insulated, affordable homes, through an expansion of the Community Housing Fund [vi].

Action on Empty Homes is a charitable organisation that aims to raise awareness of the waste of empty homes; the charity also works closely with the national network of local government Empty Homes Officers but is independent of that network: To find out more visit: www.actiononemptyhomes.org and sign up for our monthly newsletter at [email protected]homes.org

References:

[i] Government Data Release (Nov 2020) : https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/council-taxbase-2020-in-england

Action on Empty Homes Analysis of data: https://www.actiononemptyhomes.org/news/massive-20-rise-in-empty-homes-up-over-42000-to-268385-while-100000-families-are-stuck-in-temporary-accommodation

[ii] Local Government Association Media Release Jan 13th 2020: https://www.local.gov.uk/around-450-primary-schools-worth-children-stuck-temporary-accommodation-during-lockdown

[iii] Action on Empty Homes calls on Government to introduce a new national Empty Homes Strategy and to back this with an investment programme to support locally-led action through councils:

Action on Empty Homes call on Government to adopt a new national empty homes strategy to deliver additional housing supply for those in most housing need, utilising properties currently left vacant or in need of renovation (details of recommendations for Government above - see ‘Notes to Editors’).

Recommendations for local authorities

1.Local authorities should have an empty homes strategy for their area, with a clear delivery plan to reduce the number of long-term empty homes. The plan should include arrangements for working in partnership with other housing providers and with community-based organisations.

  1. Local authorities and social housing providers should seek funding and allocate resources to buy and refurbish empty properties for people in housing need.
  2. Local authorities should work with owners of long-term empty properties to support them in bringing vitally needed homes back into housing use. Employing dedicated empty homes staff can ensure the council is able to act on information about empty homes, assist neighbours of problem empty properties which are magnets for crime and vandalism and take enforcement action where necessary.

[iv] Government Data Release MHCLG (Nov 2020) : https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/council-taxbase-2020-in-england

AEH Analysis of data: https://www.actiononemptyhomes.org/news/massive-20-rise-in-empty-homes-up-over-42000-to-268385-while-100000-families-are-stuck-in-temporary-accommodation

[v] LGA calls on Government to give councils new powers to acquire empty homes:

The Local Government Association’s 13th Jan 2021 media release setting out a six-point action plan for dealing with the Temporary Accommodation crisis – point 1 calls for “Powers for councils to acquire empty homes, including making it easier to use Compulsory Purchase Order powers to buy properties and help move households on from temporary accommodation”

https://www.local.gov.uk/around-450-primary-schools-worth-children-stuck-temporary-accommodation-during-lockdown

[vi] Government announce new Community Housing Fund to support community-based organisations to bring forward local housing projects for Affordable Homes Programme, backed by £4 million of support for local plan (30th Jan 2021):

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/all-new-developments-must-meet-local-standards-of-beauty-quality-and-design-under-new-rules

For more on our new Community Action Toolkit and the work we want to see more of backed by Government in communities across England CLICK HERE

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