Hundreds of empty homes vacant for at least six months

Hundreds of Scarborough’s empty homes have lain unused for six months or longer, figures reveal.

Monday, 25th November 2019, 3:03 pm
The latest statistics listed 1,472 unoccupied and substantially unfurnished properties in the area in September. Photo: PA Images.

As the number of empty homes has risen alongside homelessness across England, housing reform campaigners warn that the country is in a “national housing crisis”.

The latest Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government statistics listed 1,472 “unoccupied and substantially unfurnished” properties in the area in September – 716 of which have gathered dust for at least half a year.

These “long-term empty homes” have shrunk in number since last year, when 841 were recorded.

The data does not include second homes or dwellings that could be refurbished.

Councils across the country can cut council tax on empty homes not marketed for sale or rent, but those vacant for at least two years risk paying up to twice their full tax bill.

The potential premium was hiked up earlier this year, having previously been capped at an extra half of the total tax due.

Across England, 299 of 317 local authorities charge a premium for some of their empty homes, with nine introducing the tax rise for the first time this year.

In Scarborough, 129 properties are now subject to a premium for being empty for two years or longer. All pay the maximum 100% tax hike. Another 189 empty homes receive a discount – including 156 exempt from council tax.

Will McMahon, director of housing charity Action on Empty Homes, said: “As Britain decides its future in the current General Election we once again see housing as a top issue amongst voters’ concerns, yet every government housing statistic is going the wrong way.

“To see empty homes numbers shoot up for a third year alongside rising homelessness is simply unacceptable.

“Our housing market is not delivering the housing we really need. This is why we want to see hundreds of thousands of wasted empty homes brought into use for those in housing need.”

The country, he added, “cannot afford” to see homes stand empty because councils lack the help to bring them back into use.