England's total stock of empty housing increased by 5.3% and is now valued at £53.6 billion
The growth in the number of long-term vacant homes in England more than doubled last year, new official statistics reveal.
According to the latest data from the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG), a total of 216,186 properties were found to have been empty for at least 6 months in the year to October 2018.
This is the second consecutive year in which vacant housing in England has increased, equating to a 5.3% annual increase; over twice the 2.6% rate recorded in the same period in 2017.
Prior to this, the number of empty homes in the country has consistently fallen every year since 2008, with house developer Project Etopia suggesting the current level of long-term vacant property is valued at £53.6 billion.
Coastal towns and cities in particular are seeing higher increases. The South Eastern city of Portsmouth saw the largest increase in vacancies at 101.5%, substantially higher than the next highest rises in Hartlepool (53.8%) in the North East, and Eastbourne (48.4%) in the South East.
London had the highest overall number of long-term empty properties, rising by 11.1% in the year 22,481 and amounting to around 20% (£10.7 billion) of England’s total value of vacancies.
Joseph Daniels, CEO of Project Etopia, said: “This remains a national scandal that isn’t going away, pointing to a collective failure to really get to grips with this problem.
“The stubbornly high number of empty homes is compounding the housing market’s deeply entrenched problems with lack of supply remaining a key driver of high prices and low affordability.”
He concluded: “New homes are not being built fast enough and the constant spectre of abandoned properties aggravates an already tough market, particularly for first time buyers who desperately want to claim the keys to their first property.”
A separate report by the Policy Exchange think tank has proposed the construction of new commuter “millennial towns” surrounding London to tackle the capital’s housing supply shortage.