Report shows increase in all types of empty homes since the pandemic

The number of long-term empty homes has increased nationally by nearly 10 per cent since 2018, according to a new report commissioned by the Local Government Association (LGA) and the Empty Homes Network.

The increase – of nearly 60,000 homes since 2018 – is the equivalent of just over one per cent of the country’s housing stock.

The findings, which come at a time of critical housing need, reveal that the numbers across all definitions, types and tenures of empty homes have risen steadily since the pandemic and have largely exceeded the figures seen in 2018.

More than one million properties across England in 2022 were unoccupied, 4.01 per cent of all dwellings. 

The rise comes despite the introduction of an empty homes premium in 2013, aimed at encouraging owners to bring empty properties back into use. 

The report states many of the empty homes are yet to have reached a stage of deterioration that prompts concern or encourages decline but every empty home removes a property from the housing market.

The rise comes amid the wider background of frozen Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates, the rising cost of living, the closure of Afghan bridging hotels, wider asylum and resettlement pressures, and an insufficient supply of affordable housing – all driving increases in homelessness and reducing councils’ ability to source suitable accommodation. 

The data shows there are currently more than one million people on council housing waiting lists and 104,000 households living in temporary accommodation. 

Councillor Darren Rodwell, housing spokesperson for the LGA said: “At a time when we face a chronic housing shortage across the country it is wrong for so many homes to be left empty.

“Councils work hard to address the issue, but the existing measures are clearly falling short. This report, and the best practice proposals and recommendations within it, aim to support councils in their efforts to reduce the numbers of empty homes, increase housing supply, encourage inward investment, and provide a better quality of life for residents and neighbours affected by the issues empty homes cause.

“Councils share a collective national ambition to tackle local housing challenges. The Government should also support this ambition by using the Autumn Statement to implement our six-point action plan so that councils can resume their historic role as a major builder of affordable homes.”

Adam Cliff, secretary and policy lead for the Empty Homes Network, said: “Empty Homes are a hugely wasted resource, and at over one million empty homes nationally, this figure represents the equivalent to the number of total dwellings in the city of Manchester. 

“At a time where the demand for housing is so high, working to bring empty homes back into use can not only support meeting this need, but can encourage inward investment, improve communities and enhance the lives of those who currently live near empty homes. 

“This report aims to set a standard from which councils can build a solid foundation to deal with empty homes, and provides practical and evidence based ideas which will undoubtedly prove useful to councils and their officers. 

“While the numbers across all empty homes categories have shown an increase over the past five years, the report aims to address this by equipping councils and officers with tools to assist in data cleansing, case progression and the overarching empty homes journey through the case progression flowchart.” 

Empty homes are divided into five categories: less than six months empty, long-term empty, empty homes premium, second homes and unoccupied. By definition, an empty home is one that has no permanent occupier or can be defined as a property where the main resident lives elsewhere. 

As a standard practice, empty homes that have remained unoccupied for over six months from the moment of being informed by the owner are labelled as long-term empty. 

Given their category, these are the most likely to warrant concern and/or investigation by the council.