Government data released today shows a massive year on year rise of over 42,000 to a total of 268,385 long-term empty homes in England, as nearly 100,000 families languish in temporary accommodation. This is the biggest rise since current records began. 

New Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government data[i] released today shows: 

  • A massive year on year rise of 42,540 to a total of 268,385 long-term empty homes in England. 
  • This is the fourth consecutive year in which figures have risen. This year's rise of almost 20% means that the national total has increased by over a third (34%) since 2016

    Regional 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 rise of 21%.

    In 2019 London councils are spent over £700million on Temporary Accommodation for households they were unable to provide with homes.[ii] 

    Other cities facing housing pressures see similar big rises which the pandemic may be exacerbating - 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. 

    Areas in the North, where communities are blighted by under-investment and empty homes figures have remained stubbornly high in recent years see 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 of £1.2billion a year[iii]. 

Director of Action on Empty Homes, Will McMahon, said, 

“The new figures are exceptionally worrying. It can’t be right that in the last four years we have seen an escalating housing crisis while the number of long-term empty homes keeps rising. Today there are nearly 100,000 families languishing in overcrowded and temporary accommodation at a time when we know that overcrowded housing is being linked to the spread of  the corona virus and to higher mortality[iv]. 

“During a national housing crisis we cannot afford to see over 268,000 homes stand empty across the country because of the lack of a government strategy to support councils to bring them back into use. It will be impossible to ‘build back better’ if we keep letting our housing crisis get worse. 

“Action on Empty Homes calls on Government to introduce a new national empty homes programme to create additional housing supply for those in most housing need, utilising properties currently left vacant or in need of renovation.” 

A new national strategy would: 

  • Introduce new powers to allow local councils to bring empty homes back into use. 
  • Create a 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. 
  • 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 £1.2[v] billion national temporary accommodation bill. 
  • Create a fund for local authorities to help local community-led housing projects which sustainably refurbish long-term empty homes and buildings. 

Media Enquiries: Chris Bailey  chris.bailey [@]

Note to editors and data references: 

[i] Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government Housing Statistical Release, 11 Nov 2020: Official Statistics: Council Taxbase 2020 in England, Local Authority Level Data 

2020 data at local authority level - national rise is 18.84%: 

2019 data at local authority level:  

2020 data compared with 2019 - Action on Empty Homes Analysis showing rate of rise for each local authority: CLICK HERE

[ii] House of Commons Library ‘Households in temporary accommodation (England)’ (12 Oct 2020) 

Inside Housing (22 Oct 2020) ‘Temporary accommodation spend soars to £1.2bn with majority being paid to private companies’: 

[iii] Shelter: Media Release: ‘Almost 100,000 homeless households were stuck in temporary accommodation during the first national lockdown’ 

[iv] Inside Housing (May 2020) ‘Four graphs show the link between covid-19 deaths and the housing crisis’: 

[v] Inside Housing (22 Oct 2020) ‘Temporary accommodation spend soars to £1.2bn with majority being paid to private companies’: