‘National scandal’ as most councils not using legal powers to take over empty homes

A whopping 11,000 houses across the UK have been empty for at least 10 years, figures from the Liberal Democrats show.

Only one in 13 councils in England and Wales used powers to take control of vacant properties in spite of a widely-reported national housing crisis and rising homelessness.

In addition to the 11,000 properties which have been empty for more than a decade, Freedom of Information requests show that over 216,000 homes have remained vacant for the last six months, with a further 60,000 empty for two years or more.

Councils have the power to use Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMO) to take over properties which have been empty for six months, but only 19 of the 247 authorities questioned had used the orders in the last five years.

Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats, stated: “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.”

Cable said the government needed to look into strengthening EDMOs, giving councils more powers and resources to return empty homes to 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), although nationally around 23,000 homes were brought back to use – mostly through ‘empty home teams’ and direct council action.

Last month, the Public Accounts Committee attacked the government’s approach to homelessness, saying the DCLG had been “unacceptably complacent” in the handling of this national crisis.

The committee’s chair, Meg Hillier, called the state of homelessness in England “shameful” and said the government had to do more to understand the costs and causes of homelessness and financially support authorities to deal with the issues.

Top image: Allinvisuality

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David Morrish   05/01/2018 at 15:59

For years we have heard the 'Mantra' of joined up thinking in Local Government surely then to urge Councils to take responsibility dealing with the problems of affordable housing the 5 year housing supply target of each Local Authority as devised by each Authority as Local Planning Authority should be 'discounted ' by the total number of vacant properties that have been unoccupied for ,say, five years . In addition to encouraging Councils to use their powers to use EDMO's it would reduce the number of unscrupulous developers using the excuse of housing supply targets to overturn on appeal Councils' decisions to refuse planning permission for endless developments of "Gin Palaces"in aras where there is a dearth of affordable housing

Geoff Orton   06/01/2018 at 14:55

Curious that if there is indeed a housing problem of the dimensions and urgency trumpeted that Councils haven't been given more incentive to stimulate small scale builders to get renovating and converting (without all the infrastructural burdens.) Tell it not in Gath but the supposition is that 'brown envelopes' trump and greenfields lose out. There must be a limit to unaffordable executive homes - can we foresee a Sicilian style litter of bankrupt developers in lieu of a 'reskewing' of scarce financial and labour resources ? Probably not.

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