Nationwide: Government must act on empty homes

Jessica Nangle

December 16, 2019

Nationwide Building Society is urging the new government to revive abandoned funding that would bring thousands of empty properties back into use.

Nationwide is calling for the next government to establish an enhanced £185m Empty Homes Fund.

This would reportedly provide the investment needed to bring 15,000 properties back into use, based on local match-funding.

There is an estimated 226,000 empty properties in England.

Currently 85,000 families also living in unsuitable and overcrowded temporary accommodation which equates to 126,000 children.

Nationwide believe that bringing empty homes back into use at pace would provide much-needed accommodation for families up and down the country.

At present, those in temporary housing are often subject to unsuitable conditions at a cost of £1bn per year to the tax-payer.

Between 2010-15 the coalition government spent £216m on direct funding for local authorities and community groups working to bring empty homes back into use, of which £156m was spent via two rounds of the Empty Homes Programme.

The funding resulted in 9,044 homes being brought back into use.

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 £185m fund, Nationwide is also calling on the next government to give local authorities the right resources and powers, introduce a national landlord and property use register and give a three year council tax holiday for first-time buyers.

Joe Garner, chief executive at Nationwide Building Society, said: “As a mutual organisation founded on a social purpose to help people in to homes of their own, today we are setting out clear asks of the next government to tackle the growing issue of empty homes.”

Will McMahon, director at Action on Empty Homes, added: “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.”

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