Empty Homes Statistics 2013

How Many Homes Are Empty?

635,127 empty homes are currently empty in England according to the 2013 Empty Homes Statistics

The latest (October 2013, published March 2014)  empty homes statistics show that of these, 232,600 are  long- term empty (meaning they have been empty for more than six months). The table below is a summary, a detailed breakdown is now available:  Click here for Empty Homes Stats 2013

Total Empty % Empty Long term Empty % Long Term Empty
NORTH EAST TOTAL 40411 3.47% 16325 1.40%
YORKSHIRE & HUMBER TOTAL 81322 3.56% 28997 1.27%
EAST MIDLANDS TOTAL 57317 2.94% 21435 1.10%
EAST OF ENGLAND TOTAL 61741 2.45% 20562 0.82%
LONDON TOTAL 59313 1.76% 24056 0.71%
SOUTH EAST TOTAL 89010 2.43% 28470 0.78%
SOUTH WEST TOTAL 65641 2.76% 21563 0.91%
WEST MIDLANDS TOTAL 65490 2.78% 24445 1.04%
NORTHWEST TOTAL 114882 3.70% 46747 1.50%
ENGLAND TOTAL 635127 2.79% 232600 1.02%


What about the rest of the UK?

We estimate that there are 845,000 empty homes across the UK, 300,000 of which are long term empty.  However Empty Homes statistics are collected at different times and are not officially published in Wales and Northern Ireland (although we have obtained the information ourselves) . Our estimate is simply a sum of the most recent official statistics  from each part of the UK.

Where do you get this information from?

The data is obtained from council tax information.  The data is supplied by owners of empty homes who report their properties as empty to their council. Councils offer exemptions and discounts from council tax for empty homes, they can also charge a higher level of council tax, called a premium. These statistics are produced by adding together the exemptions, discounts and premiums.

How accurate is it?

We believe that the information is reasonably accurate at a national level, and is the most reliable information available. However there may be some misreporting at a local level. Councils normally check for council tax fraud.

It is important to note that some homes are not included in the statistics. These include:

  • Uninhabitable homes: Homes in very poor condition can be excluded from council tax and so are not counted in these statistics. No data is available to quantify how many of these there are nationally. Recent research in Bradford showed that there were 5,000 uninhabitable homes in that city, this indicates that there are many thousands across the country.
  • Homes due for demolition: Again these are exempt from council tax. In our view these should not be counted unless demolition is in doubt or has been cancelled. Currently 40,000 homes that were due for demolition under now cancelled regeneration schemes stand empty.
  • Flats above shops. Many unused flats above shops have no residential planning use class even though they are clearly laid out as dwellings. These are charged under business rates and not council tax and so do not feature in empty homes statistics.  A report carried out for the government in 2004 estimated that there were 300,000 flats in this state in England.

I’ve heard that there are million empty homes in the UK, is this true?

Probably, although our estimate based on official statistics show less (845,000) .  If flats above shops, uninhabitable properties,  and properties due for demolition are included it is likely the total would be much higher, but as no accurate statistics on these are published we do not include them.

From a housing supply point of view we think it is more important to concentrate on the long term empty homes. There are 232,600 in England, 300,000 in UK.

Why are these homes empty?

Most empty homes are privately owned. Our surveys show the majority of the owners own just one or two properties. Often they are rented homes that have fallen into disrepair; sometimes the owner has inherited the property. In many cases the owner lacks the funds or the skills to repair and manage the property.

There are also many empty houses and flats owned by and often located next to businesses.  Many of these would originally have provided staff accommodation, but with changing employment patterns they are no longer used. In some areas cottages were tied to agricultural work, but increasing agricultural mechanisation means they are no longer needed. It is common in these cases for the business to lack the skills to make use of the empty homes.

In the last decade there have been many large regeneration schemes that have involved emptying homes in preparation for refurbishment or demolition. In the last three years falling house prices, restrictions on borrowing money and reduced government funding have caused many of these schemes to stall or even be abandoned. This has led to large areas of many social housing estates standing empty. In addition some regeneration schemes have taken the same approach to privately owned housing. Some of these have led to large numbers of homes standing empty. There are also many developments of new flats in towns and cities that have high vacancy rates. Some are owned by investors who may be waiting for rental prices to pick up, other flats were never sold, and others are incomplete, the development having been abandoned.

Why has there been such a big reduction?

2013 saw the biggest ever annual decrease in the numbers of empty homes (a drop of 75,000). The decrease saw the numbers of both empty homes and long term empty homes drop to the lowest ever recorded levels.  This is clearly to be welcomed. We believe there are a number of factors that have caused the drop.

The improving housing market has made it more viable to renovate derelict properties.

The government introduced an empty homes programme, providing grants and incentives for councils, housing associations, community groups and owners to bring empty homes into affordable use. This program is now delivering results.

In our view the major factor is the changes to council tax charging on empty homes introduced by the government in 2013. This has created strong incentives for owners to get their empty properties back into use quickly to avoid incurring additional council tax.  It is possible that these changes have also influenced the way in which properties are reported. We note that the number of properties liable for council tax dropped in 2013, whereas the housing stock actually increased. This may indicate that some owners may be removing their properties from charging altogether by for example removing bathroom and kitchen facilities. More research is needed before conclusions can be drawn on this point.



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