Local media last week highlighted the 4,575 properties that are currently sitting vacant in England’s second city, Birmingham.

The homes remain empty at the same time as 3,291 families in the city were living in hostels and B&Bs, Birmingham Live reports, at a cost to the local authority of £33m in 2019/2020 alone.

The number of empty homes in Birmingham is currently at the highest level it has been for a decade despite the efforts of the council’s empty homes team to bring properties back into use through repairs or purchase.

Councillor Sharon Thompson, Birmingham City Council’s cabinet member for homes and neighbourhoods, said: “It’s scandalous that in the midst of a national housing crisis, people continue to leave properties abandoned and in appalling conditions that cause huge problems for their immediate neighbours and surrounding neighbourhood.

“We’ll continue to work with local communities to ensure that where we can take action to bring homes back in to use, we will do so and request that should anyone be experiencing any issues with empty homes, to please get in touch.”

Once a property comes vacant, the first job of Birmingham City Council’s empty homes team is to track down the owners. Sometimes that isn’t straightforward, for example where a homeowner is living abroad or there has been a death. The team then works with the owners to get the house back into use, but if that proves impossible it can turn to enforcement measures such as serving notices to the owners to improve the appearance or, as a last resort, Compulsory Purchase Orders – which give the council has the right to buy or take over the home.

Action on Empty Homes, which campaigns for vacant houses to be used to fulfil the housing need, said Birmingham’s statistics were part of a national picture of housing pressures exacerbated by the pandemic.

Will McMahon, director of Action on Empty Homes, said: “It can’t be right that in the last four years we have seen an escalating housing crisis while the number of long-term empty homes keeps rising.

“It will be impossible to ‘build back better’ if we keep letting our housing crisis get worse. Action on Empty Homes calls on the Government to introduce a new national empty homes programme to create additional housing supply for those in most housing need, utilising properties currently left vacant or in need of renovation.”

Fraser and Fraser remains fully operational and is here to deal with any queries that local authority empty homes officers may have during this exceptional time. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with business development manager Nick Beetham. We are able to offer all our services remotely and we have secure video conferencing facilities.