Housing campaign group Action on Empty Homes is urging the UK Government to establish a National Empty Homes Strategy to deliver housing for those most in need, and empower councils to act, and offer dedicated support to community-based housing organisations.

Image: Action on Empty Homes

The group has called for 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.

Government data released in November 2020 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. Numbers of long-term empty homes rose in 9 out of ten council areas.

This is the biggest rise since current records began. 

Action on Empty Homes is also calling for the introduction of 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.

Other recommendations include ensuring owners taking advantage of this programme agree nomination rights and fair rents with councils, and dedicated funding for local authorities to help local community-led housing projects which sustainably refurbish long-term empty homes to create high quality, affordable homes.

The call was made as part of National Empty Homes Week 2021, which aims to highlight the problems of empty homes combined with rising levels of homelessness. 

Director of Action on Empty Homes Will McMahon said:

“In 2020 there was a 20% rise in long term empty homes numbers 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.

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

Adam Cliff, policy lead at the Empty Homes Network said:

“Seeing the numbers of empty properties rise year-on year highlights the requirements for more resource for Local Council’s to be able to tackle the issue, but also an increase in the need for further disincentive for owners of all types of empty homes. A National, stand-alone strategy to tackle empty homes, and the reintroduction of a recyclable loan fund will go some way in outlining the Government’s recognition that not only are empty homes an issue for communities, but a viable and efficient solution to a housing problem.

“The Empty Homes Network joins Action on Empty Homes’s call for the government to act on this, and provide the tools and support that officers across the Country are asking for in order to make progress.”