NAEA Propertymark, the professional body for estate agents, has written a letter to housing minister Christopher Pincher, asking the government to clarify the steps it is taking to get more empty homes back into use.

The letter, from outgoing NAEA chief executive Mark Hayward, is timed to coincide what would have been Empty Homes Week (scheduled to begin on 21 September), had this not been cancelled as a result of the pandemic.

The Estate Agent Today website reports that Mr Hayward highlighted latest figures that show 216,000 homes in England have been empty for more than six months, with a total of 600,000 homes currently vacant countrywide.

These figures, he adds, are significantly more than the government’s current annual housebuilding target of 300,000 new homes.

He goes on to suggest that dealing with empty homes would save the government money by reducing temporary accommodation costs, saving on housing benefit in the rental sector and reducing the costs associated with living in poor quality accommodation.

“The government has stated that they will need to balance the books after the health crisis and we think looking to solve the empty homes problem could be one way of doing this, while also solving the issue of low house building,” Mr Hayward writes.

With this in mind, he calls on the government to restart the Empty Homes Community Grants Programme, which was discontinued in 2015.

The letter also notes that there are over 80,000 empty homes in the Band A Council Tax Band and that the government should look at long-term incentives such as stamp duty or council tax discounts to encourage empty homes being brought back into use.

NAEA Propertymark, which represents over 18,000 agents, is also asking the government to commission a study which focuses on the underlying cause of empty homes.