One in five empty homes in England are located in a single region – the north-west – new figures have revealed. According to the National Housing Federation (NHF), the north-west now has nearly 40,000 unoccupied properties.
While the figure is almost half what it was a decade ago, this is still the highest number of empty homes in any English region and the same as the number of empty homes in the north-east and Yorkshire and Humber combined.
The north-east, meanwhile, has seen the number of empty homes go up by three per cent in the last five years.
While the figure peaked at 22,531 ten years ago before falling by 30 per cent to 15,900 in 2013, it has since crept back up to 16,300.
This means that the north-east now accounts for nearly a tenth of the total number of empty homes in England.
The NHF has pointed out that neither the north-west or the north-east have a housing shortage like other areas of the country.
However, it said that much of the housing stock that exists in these areas is not suitable, which means it ends up being abandoned or empty.
In addition, the NHF pointed out that these premises might be located in areas of economic decline, lacking in transport links, have few job prospects in the vicinity and be in need of renovation.
The organisation is concerned that empty homes are having a “devastating impact” on local economies and communities.
Indeed, it noted that while the north-west’s population rose by nearly 300,000 in the last census, eight local authorities actually saw a drop in population – and 8,400 empty homes are in these areas.
The NHF is therefore calling on stakeholders and policymakers to provide more support to housing associations, as they could play “a vital part in solving the empty homes crisis”.
Indeed, the body said housing associations “have a long history of working with local authorities to regenerate areas and breathe new life into them”.
For instance, the NHF noted that in the north-west, housing associations completed almost 3,400 new homes last year, and started work on nearly 4,300 more.
Meanwhile, housing associations in the north-east built more than 1,500 homes and commenced work on a further 1,200 properties.
Ciaran Tully, the NHF’s external affairs manager for the north-west, said “it can’t be right to leave property empty when so many are desperate for a place to live”.
He argued that building homes creates jobs and adds money to the local economy from residents’ spending.
While Mr Tully said housing associations are “doing just this”, he insisted they need the backing of key local partners, so they can build in the right places, free up planning and deliver the types of affordable housing that are most desperately needed.
He called for a “genuine commitment to ensuring good quality affordable housing is available at the right price, in the right places and for the right people”.
Mr Tully added that with this support, housing associations can “ramp up supply, begin vital regeneration projects, enhance infrastructure and bring empty homes back into use”.
For further information on any of the points raised in this article please contact Andrew Murray in our Social Housing Team.