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Empty homes number rose by 5.3% last year – study

Campaigners are calling for empty homes to urgently be brought back into circulation Photo: Joe Giddens/PA

The number of empty homes in England increased by almost 11,000 last year, a study suggested, prompting calls for urgent action to bring them back into circulation to help tackle the housing crisis.

Research by Action on Empty Homes and the Nationwide Building Society indicated that last year saw the fastest rise in the number of long-term empty homes in England since the recession.

The number increased by 5.3%, meaning an additional 10,983 homes were left empty, said the report.

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This was double the 2.6% rise seen in the previous year and marks the second consecutive year with a substantial increase in numbers of long-term empty homes, reversing the previous trend of steady declines seen since 2008, according to the research.

There are now more than 216,000 long-term empty homes in England, equivalent to 72% of the Government’s annual new homes target, at a time when more than a million families are on waiting lists for local authority housing, said the report.

Empty homes are found in all Council Tax bands but are particularly prevalent in the highest band (Band H) and in the lowest band (Band A), the report added.

Joe Garner, chief executive of Nationwide, said: “Concerted action and funding are needed from Government and the housing sector to identify and tackle the growing issue of empty homes.

“It’s a missed opportunity that there are 200,000 empty properties that could house people desperately needing a home of their own.”

Will McMahon, director of Action on Empty Homes said: “With homeless numbers at their highest levels in over a decade, it makes no sense to leave hundreds of thousands of homes standing long-term empty.”

A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “The Government has given billing councils in England the power to charge up to 100% extra council tax – on top of the standard bill – on properties that have been empty for at least two years, to help incentivise owners to bring them back into productive use.

“We are investing £1.2 billion to tackle all forms of homelessness and have made the most ambitious change to homelessness legislation in a decade – helping more people than ever before access vital support to prevent them from becoming homeless in the first place.”