1,606: Croydon among worst in London for empty homes

London has £20billion-worth of homes sitting vacant, according to official figures, a situation which has been described as a “scandal”.

And Croydon is among the boroughs with the most vacant properties, according to analysis conducted by City Hall on data provided by the Department for Levelling Up.

Croydon, where the average property price is reckoned to be £417,000, has 1,606 vacant homes – valued at £669.7million.

That places Croydon fifth on a table of boroughs with most empty properties, where two other south London boroughs – Southwark (2,422, the highest number in the whole of the capital) and Lambeth (1,820) – have even more unutilised homes.

According to housing charity Shelter, there are more than 5,700 people in Croydon without a home, and more than 10,000 homeless across the boroughs of Croydon, Bromley and Sutton.

Meanwhile, there’s at least 30,000 long-term, empty homes in London.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, denied the powers by the Tory Government to do anything about the situation, said, “It’s a scandal that so many residential properties are vacant when Londoners desperately need homes.”

As well as the power to set a rent cap for private landlords in the capital, Mayor Khan also wants to be able to buy up vacant properties to put them to proper use as social housing.

City Hall looked at Council Tax data and average house prices by London borough to calculate the value of vacant homes across the capital. It found that properties worth an estimated £2.2billion are empty in pricy Kensington and Chelsea alone.

The picture varies wildly by London borough. Harrow has just 61 empty properties.

Of Croydon’s neighbouring boroughs, Bromley has 1,202 empty homes, while Sutton has 970.

And while there are 34,327 recorded vacant residences in London (as at March 2022), up by 5per cent on the figure from 2021, some claim the true figure could be four times that amount.

The number of long-term empty homes in London has increased by 10,000 since 2019, at a time when rents have been surging to historic highs.

Scandal: Mayor of London Sadiq Khan wants the have more powers to deal with long-term vacant homes

When including second homes, those properties exempt from Council Tax and properties empty for less than six months, the true figure could be closer to 134,000, according to Chris Bailey, from Action on Empty Homes.

“The number started rising when the government stopped more active discouragement of the practice,” he said.

Between 2012 and 2015 the Government conducted two rounds of the Empty Homes Programme, which provided £154million to bring vacant dwellings back into use. An additional £60million was allocated as part of the Clusters of Empty Homes Programme, which aimed to tackle concentrations of poor-quality, uninhabited residences.

Bailey says that powers given to local councils to take over properties for fixed periods of time using Empty Dwelling Management Orders had been diluted over time.

It is suggested that the issue is particularly acute in London, where sky-high property prices are key to the activities of international money launderers.

Southwark Council has its own empty-home strategy, but wants more powers “take action when overseas investors let homes sit empty”.

Kieron Williams, the leader of Southwark Council, said the borough was having “real success”, having reduced the number of vacant dwellings by one-third since 2019.

“There is more to do, including on homes that are empty long-term, and we are determined to do it, including though our empty homes compulsory purchase fund.”

A spokesperson for the London Renters Union said: “At a time when a growing number of families face homelessness, the fact that empty homes are on the rise is a damning indictment of London’s rigged housing system.

“Decades of government decisions have turned our housing system into a piggy bank for the rich, rather than prioritising everyone’s right to a secure home.

“Solutions to the rental crisis must start with those who are worst affected by it, particularly those on the social housing waiting list. If properties remain empty for long periods of time, the government should take them back into public ownership and convert them into social housing.”

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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4 Responses to 1,606: Croydon among worst in London for empty homes

  1. Jess says:

    That’s because Heather Cheesborough and Nicole Townsend screwed up planning. Instead of affordable homes for young people and houses for families they supported their developer mates in putting up tower block after tower block of unaffordable and now empty flats. Plus who wants to pay those prices to live in a mismanaged, bankrupt borough where services are cut and the once thriving town centre is Armageddon thanks to Negini, Scott, Butler and Co? And we have to pay for their incompetence.

  2. Peter Underwood says:

    Both Labour and Conservatives are obsessed with building new properties because that makes more profits for their Developer friends. It has even been suggested that owners deliberately leave these empty homes to deteriorate to justify knocking them down and replacing them with yet another block of flats.

    As you would expect from the Greens, we believe in recycling. We should be focusing on bringing these existing empty properties back into use before we consider building more. It is completely unfair and cruel to have huge numbers of empty properties while thousands of people don’t have a home.

    • Sarah Gills says:

      I 100% agree. It’s madness that the solution seemed to be to build rather than use what we have. There are some good ideas with housing such as reconfiguring existing housing, being clever with infill bits of land etc, but alas it takes time and money to invest which won’t happen.

  3. derekthrower says:

    The figures regarding empty properties using council tax data is probably an underestimate. Where before from it’s origin there were exemptions for empty homes, tougher penalties have been introduced by multiplying the amount of tax by up to four times if the property if left empty for over ten years. There is now no incentive to register an empty home and you probably empty properties are now registered as occupied and sham arrangements are undertaken to provide this appearance.
    Thus a monitoring system is required to be in place to maintain an effective register.
    I would doubt very much that Councils have the resources to maintain such effective surveillance are very much reliant on tip offs and egregious examples of leaving properties empty for long periods of times.

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