News ID: 191232
Published: 0133 GMT April 21, 2017

Over 200,000 homes in England lie empty

Over 200,000 homes in England lie empty

More than 200,000 homes in England with a total value of £43billion were empty for at least six months during 2016 despite the desperate shortage of properties to rent and buy.

According to official figures, Birmingham was the worst affected city outside London with 4,397 empty homes worth an estimated £956 million, followed by Bradford and Liverpool, the Guardian reported.

The wealthy borough of Kensington and Chelsea was the worst performer in London as super-rich owners rejected renting them out or selling up in favor of leaving their properties lying idle.

The royal borough had 1,399 empty homes worth £664 million, compared with second-placed Croydon, which had 1,216 empty homes worth £577 million.

Across London there were 19,845 homes sitting idle for over six months in 2016, which amounted to £9.4 billion worth of property, based on the average price in London of £474,704.

In response squatters groups have sought to occupy empty homes, with one group in January taking over a £15 million central London property purchased by a Russian oligarch in 2014 to open it as a homeless shelter.

Councils and the government have worked to cut the number of empty homes, primarily by reducing tax incentives which encouraged owners to leave properties unused.

In recent years most councils have increased council tax bills on second homes and adopted stricter rules on council tax discounts for empty homes.

But some councils appear to have worked harder than others to make inroads into the stock of empty homes. While Birmingham recorded a 13 percent jump in empty properties in the last year and Liverpool suffered a five percent rise to 3,449, Manchester registered the greatest fall over a decade, dropping 88 percent to 1,365.

Towns and cities in the north and Midlands filled the top 20 list of local authority areas with the highest number of empty homes. Blackburn shot up the rankings to ninth place after a 35 percent jump, the biggest increase of any authority outside London, pushing neighboring Bolton into 10th place.

Property investment firm Property Partner, which collated the report from the latest Department for Communities & Local Government figures, said Kensington and Chelsea stood out from most London boroughs, which have recorded a fall in the number of empty homes over the last 10 years.

In 2006, Newham in East London, was the worst performing borough in the capital, but dramatically cut the number of empty homes over the following 10 years from 2,070 to 593. Likewise, Lambeth has recorded a fall from 2,807 in 2006 to 756 in 2016.

The trend for the world’s super-rich to invest in prime London property as a way to safeguard their wealth, without the need to secure a rental income, has meant the number of empty homes in Kensington and Chelsea rose 22.7 percent over the same period and 8.5 percent since 2015.

Property Partner said a large drop in the number of empty homes across England from 2006 stalled in 2015. The figures for 2016 showed little progress.

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