Croydon Council was this week celebrating bringing 137 homes in the borough back into residential use for those on the housing waiting list.
Yet according to figures published today, based on data from the Land Registry and property website Rightmove, that means that there’s “just” another 900 homes, valued at around £388million, still standing empty in Croydon.
This high number of unused homes is part of a national scandal, according to the people behind today’s report.
The figures have been collated by the property crowdfunding platform Property Partner, who claim that across England there are more than 200,000 long-term empty homes which have an estimated value of more than £38 billion.
In London alone, there were 20,915 homes sitting idle for more than six months in 2015 – that is almost £12.4-billion-worth of empty property, in a city facing an extreme housing shortage.
As well as Land Registry and Rightmove sources, Property Partner analysed the latest data from the Department of Communities and Local Government. In the past decade, the number of long-term vacant dwellings in England has been reducing, but clearly there are issues remaining, including the controversial overseas ownership of buy-to-let properties, bought as “investments”, but which fail to put a roof over the heads of homeless families.
Dan Gandesha, the CEO of Property Partner, said: “These figures reveal a shocking waste of opportunity. Over a decade ago, the law changed giving councils the power to seize empty homes through Compulsory Purchase Orders and rent them back out to tenants if they lay vacant for more than two years.
“But we still find not enough being done in many parts of the country. This is nothing short of a scandal. To be fair, some towns and cities are getting to grips with the problem of long-term vacant properties. Yet if just half of the current empty homes could be brought to market, it would go a long way towards resolving the housing crisis, particularly in London.”
- Croydon is among the worst London boroughs for unused homes, according to the research. The south London borough is seventh on the empty property table, with 1,022 empty homes listed at the end of 2015.
- Neighbouring Lambeth is worse, with 1,142 empty homes (valued at £695 million).
- The outer London boroughs either side of Croydon have far fewer empty properties. In Sutton, just 551 homes are listed as vacant (£198 million), while in Bromley, there are 696 (£297 million).
Croydon, with 5,000 families on its housing waiting list, began its drive to turn derelict properties into livable homes at the start of last year. After all, it ought to be quicker, and cheaper, to bring an unused home back into use than it might be to buy the land, get planning permission and then build new homes.
“The aim is to boost the rented sector in Croydon, help cut the number of families living in bed and breakfast accommodation and reduce the blight of empty homes on the borough’s local environment,” the council says.
In the 17 months since it started, the council has got landlords to do up and re-let 108 flats and 29 houses to families needing temporary accommodation. The properties range from a four-bedroom detached home in Purley that the council bought through a compulsory purchase order in March last year to sites in Waddon, Thornton Heath, Coulsdon and New Addington. The empty homes drive is part-funded by the Greater London Authority.
The latest properties to be reoccupied this month are 16 homes in south Croydon. The previously-derelict two-bedroom 1930s maisonettes in Haling Grove are now let by utilities consultancy and social landlord The Monarch Partnership to the council so it can provide medium-term accommodation to families on the housing waiting list.
But with another 900 empty homes standing idle, the council’s work is far from complete, and it is encouraging residents to report empty properties on a dedicated “hotline”: 020 8760 5470.
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