Increase in empty homes is blow to campaign

Wednesday, 21 December 2011 9:48 AM

The number of empty homes in England rose by 12,000 in 2011, according to the annual Halifax Empty Homes survey.

The 1.8 per cent increase to 662,000 conflicts with separate government figures published two weeks ago that showed a fall of 21,000. Housing minister Andrew Stunell hailed this as the biggest year-on-year fall in empties since 2004.

And the statistical confusion comes in the same month that the empty homes issue was highlighted in George Clarke’s Great British Property Scandal for Channel 4.

The Halifax survey is based on the homes that councils find to be empty whereas the government figures are based on council tax returns.

However, the bank still had some good news for the campaign with news that the number of privately owned long-term empty homes fell by 1 per cent to 292,000. This is the lowest for three years.

The survey shows that the North West has the highest number of long-term empties and 22 per cent of the total found in England. In contrast, the North East saw the biggest fall from 21,000 to 17,000.

Stephen Noakes, mortgage director at Halifax, said: “Long-term empty homes account for about 1.6% of all private homes in England. And at a time when first-time buyers are still facing numerous obstacles to getting on the ladder, it is imperative we look further at the issue as an industry".

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