Number of empty homes hits record low

The number of empty homes in England has dropped to its lowest level ever recorded.

2013 saw the amount of vacant properties drop by 75,000, the biggest-ever annual fall, leaving the total amount of empty homes in England at its lowest ever level of 635,127.

The number of unused homes in the country peaked in 1994 at 868,000 but has been falling as the issue has come under both political and public scrutiny.

Birmingham saw the largest annual reduction, where empty homes decreased by 2,889 and regionally the North West and London saw the biggest reductions.

The North West, however, still has the highest number of empty homes in England, which accounts for 21 per cent of the empty homes in the country.

Lancashire has the highest national vacancy rates, where more than 6% of the housing stock is empty.

There was also a large drop in the number of long-term empty homes, with numbers dropping by over 27,000 to a new record low of 232,600.

While the vacancy rate in London has dropped below 2 per cent for the first time, the number of long-term empty homes in London remains almost unchanged, with 14 London boroughs including Ealing, Camden and Hounslow actually seeing an increase in long-term empty homes.

Campaigning charity Empty Homes has welcomed the record drop and Chief Executive of the charity, David Ireland said:

“It’s fantastic to see such a large reduction in the number of empty homes. “The huge drop in empty homes we have seen this year is down to a number of factors: The improving housing market has made it more viable to renovate some derelict houses.

"The government’s empty homes grants programme is beginning to bear fruit, but the major factor is almost certainly the effect of changes to council tax charging. This has created strong incentives for owners to get their properties into use as soon as possible to avoid incurring extra council tax.”

Other areas that saw a big drop in the number of empty homes include Gateshead, Leeds, and Lambeth.

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