The number of empty properties in England rose 5.3% to 216,186 long term empty homes in the twelve months to October 2018 according to the latest Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) figures.
Long term vacant properties are classed as those empty for at least six months.
This follows a 2.6% rise the previous year. Prior to 2017, the number of long term vacant properties had dropped every year since 2008.
Analysis by modular home and school builder Project Etopia shows that the value of this empty stock is £53.6bn.
The number of properties
In England, coastal towns saw the biggest percentage rise in long-term properties. Portsmouth saw the greatest rise in empty homes, with a 101.5% increase, or 939 properties in total. Hartlepool saw the second biggest rise, with 53.8% or 726 homes. Eastbourne posted the third largest increase, rising 48.4% to 518.
Unsurprisingly, London has the greatest number of empty properties, rising 11% to 22,481, which have a total value of £10.7 billion. Outside of London, Birmingham has the overall greatest number of empty properties, with 4,283 vacant homes, which remained almost stagnant on the previous year, with a rise of just 0.07%.
Durham comes in second place with 4,130 and Bradford third with 4,090 homes. However, the number of empty homes in Durham actually fell by 9%.
In total, the number of empty homes rose to over 634,000, if those empty on a short term basis are included.
Project Etopia’s analysis
The Project Etopia chief executive, Joseph Daniels, said: ‘The stubbornly high number of empty homes is compounding the housing market’s deeply entrenched problems with lack of supply remaining a key driver of high prices and low affordability.
‘New homes are not being built fast enough and the constant spectre of abandoned properties aggravates an already tough market.’
The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors has warned that the supply of new homes for those looking to rent privately continues to decrease whilst demand for rental properties increases.
As a result, the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) is urging the Government to abolish the additional stamp duty applicable to the purchase of homes to rent, if landlords invest in long term empty homes and bring them back into use within a specified time.
John Stewart, policy manager for the RLA, commented: ‘The scandal of empty homes at a time when so many are finding it difficult to access accommodation is just one reason why pro-growth tax is needed.
‘The government should support good landlords to do what they have always been good at – investing in property and bringing it back into long term use.’
The Government’s response
In response to these findings and the RLA’s recommendations, Kit Malthouse, the housing minister, said: ‘Local authorities have a range of powers at their disposal to tackle long-term empty homes, and I expect them to make full use of these so everyone has a roof over their head.
‘All local authorities in England have the power to charge homes that have been empty for at least two years an extra 50% on their council tax bill, and now from April, they can increase this to 100%.’