New figures released by the Home Office have revealed a sharp increase in the number of empty properties across Southwark in 2020.

Image: Lars Plougman via Creative Commons License

The data released in November by the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government revealed that in 2020 one in every 24 homes in Southwark was empty, up 600% from 2019.

This is set against the news that Southwark also has the highest increase in second homes in London.

Chris Bailey, National Campaign Manager of Action for Empty Homes said: 

“While there have been some increases in second homes across London, Southwark has seen a 600% increase. I don’t think anywhere in the national data will beat that percentage rise in empty homes.

“In Southwark in 2019, the number of theoretical second homes was 700, and at any given time Airbnb listed 2,600 houses in Southwark.

“Southwark are spending £20million a year on housing these people.” 

However, a spokesperson for Southwark Council responded that it was a ‘common misconception’ that the council was sitting on empty properties, and that empty homes figures were subject to fluctuations:

“It’s a common misconception that councils have ’empty’ properties which they do not rent out to tenants. 

“The reality, for Southwark at least, is that it is the fourth largest local authority social landlord nationally, with around 39,000 council-rented homes. Any ‘empty’ homes figures will fluctuate on a daily basis, as the figures are taken from council tax records.

“Since March 2020, we have housed over 800 people who were at risk of or already sleeping rough, and helped over 300 families living in accommodation with shared kitchens or bathrooms into self-contained homes so they can safely self-isolate if necessary.”

Across London, where over 30,616 homes lie long-term empty, 2020 saw a 24% rise in the numbers of empty homes, while a 27% increase of long term empties in inner boroughs was also noted.

National analysis by Action on Empty Homes has revealed that while £1.2billion of taxpayer’s money is spent a year housing 100,000 homeless families in temporary accommodation in the UK, as of November 2020, 268,385 homes stand empty across the country, up from 42,540 in 2019, and some of the biggest rises in vacancy are where housing demand is greatest.