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There are more than 200,000 homes sitting empty in England - worth a total of £43bn

There are more than 200,000 homes sitting empty in England - worth a total of £43bn

21 April, 2017

n England there are 200,000 homes that have been sitting empty for more than six months, according to new Government figures. This is equivalent to £43bn worth of housing stock. In London alone there were 19,845 homes sitting vacant for over six months last year, property that is worth £9.4bn, taking into account average prices. Kensington and Chelsea has the capital’s highest number of homes which are vacant for more than six months with 1,399 empty, up 8.5pc on last year, and 22.7pc higher than 10 years ago.
This is likely due to the buy-to-leave phenomenon, where wealthy buyers snap up homes as an investment, and leave them empty while waiting for its value to increase. Communities secretary Sajid Javid downplayed the role of such foreign buyers in exacerbating the housing crisis, saying the problem “isn’t as bad as some people think”. A Savills' report found that the majority of homes bought by people based overseas were being rented out, rather than left empty. But the number of empty homes has been falling  in most areas of the city. Newham, in east London, previously had the highest number of such vacant properties, but has staged a turnaround in the last year, cutting the number of empty homes by 55pc to 593 from 1,318 in 2015. One exception to London's success story is Harrow, in the north-west of the capital, which has seen the steepest rise in the country with a climb of 571pc.
Birmingham has the most empty homes outside the capital, followed by Bradford and Liverpool. Dan Gandesha, chief executive of property investment marketplace Property Partner, said: “Councils have had the power to apply to seize empty homes since 2006 and huge advances have been made over the last ten years."
In the last 10 years, the number of vacant homes across England has fallen 36.4pc. These vacant homes are those in which no council tax is being paid, be it because of renovation works, the owners live overseas or are waiting for the property to increase in value, issues with inheritance or a gap between tenancies. Campaigners from the charity Empty Homes argue that the Government's figures undercount the real number of empty homes. Helen Williams, director of the charity, said: "We would like to see targeted Government investment that supports neighbourhood improvement approaches whereby local authorities work with community-led organisations and others to see the existing housing stock refurbished and to tackle the underlying causes of empty homes in these areas." Jo Thoy from specialist insurance brokers Towergate, said: "Despite an encouraging fall in empty homes over the past decade, our capital still has a high number of homes left vacant for most of the year.  This remains a concern in face of ever rising house prices and a continuing squeeze on supply preventing many getting on the property ladder."