11,000 homes across UK empty for ten years or more
Over 11,000 homes across the country have been sitting empty for ten years or more, research by the Liberal Democrats has revealed.
Vince Cable has said it is a "national scandal" that so many homes are being left empty when the country is in the midst of a worsening homelessness crisis.
The figures, uncovered through Freedom of Information responses from 276 local councils, show that there are over 216,000 homes across the country that have been empty for six months or more. Of these, 60,000 had been empty for two years or more, 23,000 for five years or more, and over 11,000 have stood empty for at least ten years.
The research also shows that just one in thirteen councils are making use of Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMO), powers used by local authorities to take over properties that have been empty for at least six months. Only 19 of the 247 councils in England and Wales that responded (the powers do not apply in Scotland) had used an EDMO in the past five years. Of these only six had used one in the past year.
In total, councils returned around 23,000 empty homes back into use, including through direct action and the work of empty home teams. The Liberal Democrats are calling for reform of EDMOs and stronger powers for local councils to bring long-term empty homes back into use.
The areas with the largest number of homes empty for six months or more were Durham (6,502), Leeds (5,724), Bradford (4,144), Cornwall (3,273) and Liverpool (3,093). Many of these areas also suffer from high levels of homelessness.
Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable commented:
“At a time when the homelessness crisis is worsening and more and more people are sleeping out in the cold on our streets, it is a national scandal that thousands of homes across the country are sitting empty.
“These homes could be turned into affordable places to live for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
“The Government needs to urgently review the current system which is clearly not working.
“Councils need to be given the powers and resources to bring empty homes back into use .
“This must form part of a wider package to tackle the housing crisis, including building more homes on unused public sector land and clamping down on land-banking.”
Local Welsh Liberal Democrat secretary Frank Little added:
“One notes that Neath Port Talbot was one of those councils which did not respond to the survey. However, if their performance is anything like that of Swansea City - over 2,000 empty dwellings and only one use of an EDMO - then there is cause for worry.”