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Over 200,000 homes in the UK have been left empty for over six months

The UK is going through an empty housing scandal. Leaving homes empty may seem like madness in a country where there is a housing shortage with mounting waiting lists up and down the country. But more than 200,000 properties are left empty long-term in the UK. In addition, more than 11,000 homes across the country have been lying empty for longer than a decade despite the housing crisis and rising homelessness.

Furthermore, London was recently cited as the largest short-term lettings market in Europe with over 75,000 rental listings on Airbnb alone.

A nominal number of Councils are making use of empty dwelling management orders (EDMO) – the powers that can be used by local authorities to take over properties that have been empty for at least six months. Figures show that only six had be used in 2018.

In total, councils returned about 23,000 empty homes back into use, including through direct action and the work of empty home teams last year. Councils in Liverpool and Stoke on Trent for example have offered virtually derelict homes for £1 which have subsequently been renovated and new communities formed.

The government announced previously that it would try to encourage owners of empty homes to bring their properties back into use by allowing local authorities to increase the council tax premium from 50% to 100%.

However, the charity Empty Homes said at the time that the council tax increase would do little to deter those buying properties as investment as “for a very wealthy buyer spending millions, 100% council tax is not really enough of a disincentive”. The charity said it would be more helpful if the government carried out a review into why overseas buyers kept their properties empty.

Data accidentally released by Kensington and Chelsea Council last year revealed a string of oligarchs, foreign royalty and multimillionaire businesspeople as the owners of vacant properties in the borough. The owners of the 1,652 properties listed as unoccupied by Kensington and Chelsea council included a Ukrainian billionaire fighting extradition to the US, a former mayor of New York, a high-profile luxury property developer and a senior television executive.

Land registry searches or specific tracing by a suitable agent can assist in locating these people and contact made to try and ratify what in some cases may be an immovable object but in others could mean a roof over someone’s head.

 

Sources Big Issue, Empty Homes, BBC, Liberal Democrats