‘12,000 empty homes’ hidden from official figures

A Freedom of Information request by the Empty Homes Agency (EHA) has revealed that around 12,000 empty homes are hidden from official figures because they are earmarked for demolition.

The Empty Homes Agency held a conference today to talk about ways of tackling the dozens of estates around the UK which are boarded up.

EHA chief executive David Ireland told BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours programme that homes originally due to be abolished as part of regeneration schemes had suffered from the recession.

He said: “We just looked at 20 local authorities where we knew there were issues and we found over 12,000 homes which are empty, which were originally intended to be abolished. Because the demolition hasn’t taken place, there is no viable plan for them. So just in 20 local authorities we found 12,000 homes not on any official figures, so there is a big undiscovered problem here which we have to address.”

Official figures show that of the 700,000 empty homes, about 300,000 are left unoccupied long-term by private, rather than public, owners.

Innovative thinking in Holland is seeing local government buy up empty homes and hand them over to young professionals on the condition that they must renovate them.

Junior housing minister Andrew Stunell – who spoke at today’s conference – described the 300,000 long term empty homes in England as a scandal with four million people stranded on housing waiting lists.

The Government has announced a package of measures to refurbish empty homes, including the New Homes Bonus – which financially rewards councils who return them to use.

It has also made £100m available through the Homes and Communities Agency to help social landlords meet the cost of bringing vacant properties back into use.

Communities stand to benefit by over £2bn if all long-term empty properties were brought back into use, with the New Homes Bonus paying out £7,000 for the average empty property, the Government has said.