In National Empty Homes Week 2023, we are highlighting local approaches, success stories and case studies illustrating action from local authorities across England.

Participating authorities this year include:

Babergh - Bath & North East Somerset - Bedford - Birmingham - Braintree - Brent- Bromley - Calderdale - Cambridge - Camden - Charnwood  Conwy - Cornwall - Coventry - Dacorum - Dartford - Dorset - East Devon - East Riding - Elmbridge - Exeter - Fenland - Frome - Gedling - Gravesham - Harborough - Hastings - Islington - Ipswich - Kent - Knowsley - Lancaster - Lewisham - Maidstone - Medway - Mendip - Mid-Suffolk - Newark & Sherwood - North Devon - North Kesteven - North Somerset - North West Leicestershire - Northumberland - Oxford - Plymouth - Portsmouth - Preston - Redbridge - Rotherham - Rugby - Ryedale - Sedgmoor - Sefton - Sevenoaks - Shropshire - Somerset West & Taunton - South Gloucestershire - South Derbyshire - South Devon - South Hams - South Lakeland - South Somerset - St Helens - Stockport - Sunderland - Swindon - Teignbridge - Telford & Wrekin - Tonbridge & Malling - Torbay - Tunbridge Wells - West Devon - Westminster - Wirral

As we call attention to the astonishing one million homes in England which remain empty, in the midst of overlapping housing and cost of living crises, we also wish to use National Empty Homes Week as an opportunity to put the spotlight on the positive work of local authorities from across the country.

Councils across England are taking action on the empty homes in their areas, identifying creative solutions as they come to terms with financial limitations.

In this article, by Jack Portman, we highlight stories from local authorities about their positive experiences and the action they are highlighting during National Empty Homes Week 2023.

Babergh District Council and Mid Suffolk District Council

Working collaboratively the two district councils both saw levels of long-term empty homes drop by 1% in 2022, while numbers rose 9% across the Eastern region as a whole. The two councils used the National awareness week to introduce their joint Houses4Homes programme which offers owners of empty homes support to bring them back into use and reduce the number of empty homes across the district. The Houses4Homes programme includes a variety of services, including construction advice, financial assistance from interest free loans, and letting support.

The council say their aim is:


  • help alleviate a growing national housing need
  • offer more choice to the housing market
  • prevent empty properties from becoming a blight to their local area or having a negative environmental impact'

Calderdale Council


Image: An empty home in Calderdale sold at auction in February 2023. Photo provided by the Council.

In Calderdale empty homes numbers decreased by 12% in the past year. In addition to offering advice and support for homeowners, the Council highlights its proactive efforts to mitigate vacancy.

To achieve this, the Council has partnered with a genealogy firm to locate relatives of deceased homeowners in order to bring empty homes back onto the market faster.

According to: Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Climate Change and Resilience, Cllr Scott Patient "We understand the many issues that can be caused by empty properties and an awful lot of work takes place to identify empty homes and try and resolve the issues which are stopping them being occupied."

Camden Council, London:

Camden's case study shows problem properties can take perseverance to bring back to use but every home helps and a homeless family will have a home as a result of this work.

CASE STUDY: 2 Bed Basement Flat – NW2

The property had been empty since September 2019, due to major damp and some subsidence problems, therefore the property was unable to be let.

Camden’s Empty Homes Team contacted the owner in November 2020 to offer assistance in bringing the property back into use, the owner took up the offer of assistance.

A Grant of £30,000 was agreed, but before the works could start, disputes with other interested parties had to be resolved.  The Empty Homes Officer was able to intervene and wrote to all the relevant parties and mediated to resolve the issues so the works could start.

During COVID building works came to a halt due to a lack of builders and materials, but once all restrictions were lifted, the works restarted around October 2021 and things quickly moved on.

The Empty Homes Team regularly monitored the works and had regular meetings with the owner to discuss progress. Amendments to the works specifications agreed delayed the works slightly, such as a new larger window being fitted to the kitchen area (no doubt helpful in a basement flat).

From this...





Works are now completed to a high standard and the property will be available to let within the next couple of weeks.  Camden have 3 years nomination rights on the property as part of the terms and condition of the grant and the flat will now be used to house a homeless family.

North Somerset Council

North Somerset Council offer owners of empty homes a variety of services to bring their home back into use. Key among these is their financing partnership with Lendology CIC, alongside a dedicated letting team, and advice on matters ranging from reduced VAT on readying long-term empties back into use to energy efficiency measures.

The council offer landlord's a range of incentives including a Tenant Readiness Grant to ensure homes matched to tenants are really ready for them to move into. More on the scheme here

Cllr Mike Bell, Deputy Leader of North Somerset Council and executive member for housing, says: “While the number of long-term empty homes in North Somerset is relatively low in comparison to some areas, each one represents a potential new home for a family in need.

“It’s a great shame there’s this wasted resource, at a time when we need more quality homes across North Somerset.

“As a council we can help owners of empty properties bring them back into use and North Somerset residents can report any empty homes which are causing concern.. I’d urge any owners to contact us and find out how we can help to bring their properties back into use.”

Emma Lower, Chief Executive of Lendology CIC, said “Empty homes are a valuable resource being put to waste at a time when housing is so important. 

“We understand the challenges people face in financing and renovating empty homes, hence we would like to promote the lending scheme funded by North Somerset Council. Our unique approach to lending allows us to solve a range of finance issues in local communities and we love turning empty houses into loved homes.” 

Oxford City Council

Oxford Council highlight the strategies it uses to bring empty homes into use, engaging with owners and executors directly. The council helped bring 41 empty homes back into use in 2022/23 as a result of this work.

This included the voluntary purchase of a home in Blackbird Leys that had been empty since 2011 and has now been let as a council home to a family on the housing register.

However, the council point out that, 'Apart from increasing council tax on homes that have been empty for more than two years, councils have limited legal powers to deal with empty homes.'

Councillor Linda Smith commented that “we simply can’t afford empty homes given the scarcity and cost of housing in Oxford – it’s vitally important that any empty home is brought back into use as quickly as possible.”

Torbay Council

Steve Darling, Leader of Torbay Council, outlines why empty homes matter: “We know there’s a housing crisis, both locally and nationally, and it is imperative that we work with empty homeowners to bring empty properties back into use.

This is a subject that council taxpayers feel very strongly about. There are decent properties out there, which are laying empty but local families struggle in temporary accommodation. In many cases people suddenly find themselves with an empty property and don’t have the experience to bring them back into use, for example if a parent goes into care or dies.”

Councillor Swithin Long, Cabinet Member for Economic Regeneration, Tourism and Housing for Torbay Council, adds: “Empty homes can be an eyesore and a blot on the landscape, as well as a wasted resource, and there are people out there who desperately need a good home so tackling empty properties is a win-win situation.”

Paignton empty home brought back into use after several years

The Council worked with a local developer to bring a long-term empty home back into use as stop-gap accommodations for families experiencing homelessness.

Their work reflects the increasing interest in the projects that not only bring empty homes back into use but that do so with a view towards providing housing for community members with particular needs, whether related to accessibility, finances, or care.

Image: A long-term empty home in Paignton renovated to accommodate families experiencing temporary homelessness. Image: Torbay Council.

Case Study:

After many years as an empty home, Housing Officers worked with the owners to link them with a local property developer, who purchased the property and redeveloped it into a three bed, family home, creating jobs for local people. Following negotiations, the developer then leased the property to the Council to provide much needed temporary accommodation to local people who have become homeless.

Jean, Temporary Accommodation Property Management Officer, says: “Being able to offer a three bed, self-contained home really does make a difference for families going through a very stressful time and provides respite for children. We have been working with the landlord for over a year and thus far this has been problem-free. 

“We regularly visit clients at least once a week, to make sure things are going okay, and that repairs and garden maintenance are kept up to date. If any landlord is considering leasing a property to the Council, they can rest assured that we keep an eye on the property and will carry out any repairs necessary.”

Torbay operate a Landlord Tenancy Matching Scheme:

Meanwhile in Wales...

Conway Council

The Council is using Empty Homes Week to highlight an array of initiatives it supports to address empty homes. These include home improvement loans, grants, and a leasing scheme for empty properties. Cllr Emily Owen noted that "housing touches on every aspect of people's lives. By bringing an empty home back into use, we can help towards the Council’s aim for people in Conwy to have access to affordable, appropriate and good quality accommodation.”

Wales recently announced a new £50m package of funding to bring over 2,000 long-term empty homes back into use