700,000 homes in England are empty

New research by Halifax, using data from the ODPM, shows that there were 689,675 empty homes in England in 2004/05 – 3.2% of the total English dwelling stock.

An empty home is classified as a dwelling, which is vacant either because it is between occupants, undergoing modernisation, in disrepair or awaiting demolition.

Bringing these dwellings back into use is a pressing issue as 0.5% of all households (106,000) in England are living in temporary accommodation.

As a proportion of the local dwelling stock, the most empty homes (8.3%) are in Burnley, 7.6% are in Liverpool and 7.1% are in Tower Hamlets. In total there are 23 English Local Authorities where at least 5% of homes are empty. House prices in these areas tend to trade, on average, at a 22% discount to their region’s average house price and 31% below the English average.

On a regional basis the most empty homes are in the North West: 127,473 properties or 4.2% of the total stock. The North West is also the only region to see an increase in the number of empty homes in the past five years, albeit at 0.8% only a small one. Overall, there has been a fall of 75,000 (9.8%) in the number of empty homes in England over the past five years.

14 of the 20 LAs with the biggest proportion of residents in temporary accommodation have more empty homes than households living in temporary housing. Of the 23 areas with a high number of empty homes, 3.3% of household in Tower Hamlets and 1.1% in Swindon are in temporary accommodation. The local authorities with the highest proportion of households in temporary accommodation are Newham (5.5%), Haringey (5.4%) and Brent (3.7%), all in London.


Tim Crawford, group economist at Halifax, says: “While the number of empty homes in England has been trending lower over the past five years, a significant number of properties are still vacant.

It is in the interest of the whole community to eradicate the empty homes problem. Apart from the social benefits of bringing empty homes back into use, house prices tend to be lower in areas with a high number of empty homes.”

Characteristics of areas with a high number of empty homes include lower average house prices, higher than average unemployment and lower than average earnings.

Each of the LAs with more than 5% of their dwelling stock empty have house prices below the regional average with the discount, on average, being 22%. Prices were also, on average, 31% below the English equivalent.

Of the 23 high empty home areas, 16 had an unemployment rate above the regional average. On average, high empty home areas had a claimant count rate 0.6 percentage points above the regional average. The worst performer in the group had an unemployment rate more than double the regional average.

Average weekly earnings are 10% below the regional average and 16% below the national level in areas with a high amount of empty homes. This potentially suggests that there is less free income to improve properties than in other parts of the country. The worst performers have earnings more than 30% below the regional average.

One in five areas with more than 5% of dwellings empty has significant levels of public sector vacancies (more than 25% of the total), suggesting that low demand public housing can be a factor contributing to the number of empty homes. However, the majority of empty homes (85%) are privately owned in England.

There are 20 LAs that have more than 5,000 empty homes in 2004/05, compared with 27 LAs with more than 5,000 vacant dwellings in 1999/00. The highest number of empty homes is in Birmingham (17,836), Liverpool (15,964) and Leeds (15,619).

The biggest fall in the number of empty homes over 1999/00 to 2004/05 has been in East Riding of Yorkshire (-4,420), along with Camden (-4,079) and Newham (-3,300) – both in London. Five out of the 10 LAs with the largest fall in the number of empty homes are in London.

Over the period 1999/00 to 2004/05, 11 LAs have seen the number of empty homes in their area rise by more than 1,000. The largest rise in the number of empty homes has been in Leeds (3,519), Swindon (2,724) and Rochdale (1,969).

There are 10 LAs with less than 1% of their dwelling stock empty. The lowest proportion of empty homes across England is in Cambridge (0.6%), the City of London (0.6%) and the Vale of the White Horse (0.7%).

On a regional basis the most empty homes are in the North West, (127,473 or 4.2% of the total) and this region accounts for 18% of all vacant dwellings in England.

The least empty homes are in the South-East (2.4%) and the East of England (2.5%). Despite a chronic housing shortage, London has close to 100,000 vacant dwellings, 3.1% of its total dwelling stock.

The largest fall in the number of empty homes over the past five years has been in Yorkshire & the Humber with 15,620 less vacant dwellings than in 1999/00. The North-West is also the only region to see an increase in the number of empty homes in the past five years (+996).

Although 3.2% of the national housing stock is empty, a fair degree of this represents transition between households. 43% of all private empty homes in England have been vacant for more than six months, 1.4% of all dwellings. However, the top five empty homes areas have more than 5% of the private sector dwelling stock empty for more than six months.

More than half of all households in temporary accommodation are in London, 57,879 or 1.8% of its dwelling stock, followed by the South-East with 13,066 or 0.4% of its dwelling stock.

Out of the 20 local authorities with the highest percentage of residents in temporary accommodation, 17 are all in London.

The 20 areas with the most residents in temporary accommodation have, on average, 3.1% of their dwelling stock empty. The local authorities with the highest proportion of households in temporary accommodation are Newham (5.5%), Haringey (5.4%) and Brent (3.7%), all in London.

Tower Hamlets and Swindon are the areas with a high number of empty homes that have the highest proportion of households in temporary accommodation, 3.3% and 1.1% respectively.