A building society has called on Boris Johnson’s Government to “resurrect” funding to bring thousands of empty properties back into use to help homeless families.
Nationwide is calling for the next Government to establish an enhanced £185 million Empty Homes Fund. This would provide the investment needed to bring 15,000 properties back into use, based on local match-funding.
Between 2010-15 the then Conservative-led coalition Government spent £216 million on direct funding for local authorities and community groups working to bring empty homes back into use, of which £156 million was spent via two rounds of the Empty Homes Programme. The funding resulted in 9,044 homes being brought back into use.
However, since the closure of the funding, Nationwide said the problem has escalated significantly.
The number of empty homes increased 5.3% in 2018 as an additional 10,893 properties were left empty. This is more than double the 2.6% rise seen in 2017 and marks the second consecutive year where there has been a substantial rise in long-term empty homes, reversing the previous trend of steady declines.
As well as the £185 million fund, Nationwide is also calling on the next Government to:
- Give local authorities the right resources and powers, with funding for dedicated empty homes officers, including improved Empty Dwelling Management Order powers
- Give local authorities the powers they need to create tax incentives to redevelop buildings, such as higher levels of council tax on vacant properties
- Introduce a national landlord and property use register as a means of identifying empty homes and helping potential landlords to refurbish their vacant properties
- Give a three-year council tax holiday for first-time buyers moving into an empty home. This will help to remove barriers and enable properties to be brought back into the market
“As a mutual organisation founded on a social purpose to help people into homes of their own, we are setting out clear asks of the next Government to tackle the growing issue of empty homes,” said Joe Garner, Nationwide’s chief executive.
Will McMahon, director of Action on Empty Homes, said: “We welcome Nationwide’s Empty Homes Manifesto and its key recommendations. Government investment, strengthening council powers and empowering local people to take action, can reverse the recent rise in numbers of empty homes.
A new national strategy can quickly bring into use thousands of empty homes for families who need them. Many communities are already trying to take action to bring the empty properties blighting their neighbourhoods into use, they just need government funding and council support to get the job done.”