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Cable calls for action to end empty homes ‘scandal’

The leader of the Liberal Democrats has called for councils to be given new powers to bring empty homes back into use.

Vince Cable said the issue was a “national scandal” after research by his party revealed more than 11,000 homes across the country have been sitting empty for ten years or more.

The figures, uncovered through Freedom of Information responses from 276 local councils, show that there are over 216,000 homes across the country that have been empty for six months or more.

Of these, 60,000 had been empty for two years or more, 23,000 for five years or more, and over 11,000 have stood empty for at least ten years.

The research also shows that just one in 13 councils are making use of Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMO), powers used by local authorities to take over properties that have been empty for at least six months. Only 19 of the 247 councils in England and Wales that responded had used an EDMO in the past five years.

Of these, only six had used one in the past year.

In total, councils returned around 23,000 empty homes back into use, including through direct action and the work of empty home teams.

The Liberal Democrats are calling for reform of EDMOs and stronger powers for local councils to bring long-term empty homes back into 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).

Prime minister Theresa May is expected to deliver a speech outlining the government’s vision for housing later this week.

‘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,’ said the Liberal Democrat leader.

‘These homes could be turned into affordable places to live for some of the most vulnerable people in our society,’ added Cable.

‘Councils need to be given the powers and resources to bring empty homes back into use.

‘This must form part of a wider package to tackle the housing crisis, including building more homes on unused public sector land and clamping down on land-banking.’

Empty Homes

The campaign manager at the national charity Empty Homes, Chris Bailey, commented: ‘At a time of national housing crisis, government figures show that across England over 200,000 homes have been empty for more than six months.

‘Our research shows that neighbourhoods with high levels of long-term empty homes tend to have lower house prices, higher levels of deprivation and lower than average household incomes than the rest of England.’

‘They also have higher levels of private rented sector housing and higher proportions of this do not meet the decent homes standard,’ added Mr Bailey.

‘These neighbourhoods can become trapped in a vicious cycle of poor housing standards and decline in perceived desirability. These are what are often referred to as England’s “left behind communities”.

‘Yet in the midst of a national housing crisis, these are still areas facing housing need, in local authorities where waiting lists often out-strip housing supply. We believe that its time government re-engaged with policy initiatives to target funding to such areas and end the waste of empty homes.”

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