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The UK Housing Crisis – Are Councils Missing An Obvious Trick?

The latest government data shows that over 260,000 homes have stood empty across the country for more than six months. Not only is this fundamentally unfair in today’s social environment, but it also represents a deep economic hole that is keeping the UK trapped in a housing crisis. What’s more, local authorities are missing out on millions of pounds worth of additional revenue from the New Homes Bonus – a grant paid by central government to incentivise local authorities to identify long term empty homes and houses that have become reoccupied .

With all this at stake, councils should be itching to bring more empty homes back into use. But long-held misconceptions are holding some back from exercising their powers. If dealing with empty properties continues to be seen as a resource-heavy, difficult, and tiresome process, council budgets will tighten further, and the housing crisis will persist – with no end in sight.

It’s time for a new story to unfold. By partnering with a specialist outsourced provider, councils can easily leverage a fully managed Empty Homes Review service that tackles the housing crisis and unlocks new revenue streams, enabling local authorities to truly strengthen their service offerings to residents.

Empty homes: why so many?

The empty property problem is nothing new: 75 years ago, post-war anger at the lack of affordable housing boiled over into a mass squatting wave, where tens of thousands of people took over empty flats around Britain. But the scale of the issue has widened again over recent years, as long-term empty homes have increased by 20% since 2016. In fact, recent research has shown that one in three homes in London’s financial centre are currently sitting empty.

The reasons for this rise vary: while second homes and luxury ‘buy-to-leave’ developments are certainly an issue, many homes become derelict and inhabitable due to owners not getting the permissions or funds to redevelop them. In some cases, ownership may be contested after the death of an occupant. No matter what the causes, the increase in empty homes has brought about a combination of social and financial challenges for councils to tackle.

The cost to society

Empty homes represent a jarring missed opportunity to support vulnerable citizens, especially in the wake of Covid-19 and the current cost of living crisis. At the most recent count, there were just under 100,000 households living in temporary accommodation in England. And as waiting lists for social housing continue to grow, it is easy to see how £200bn worth of long-term empty properties isn’t helping to solve the UK’s housing crisis.

When left to become derelict, vacant homes can drive down the value of surrounding properties, having far-reaching negative effects on communities. Their presence can also heighten the risk of burglary and other offences. 

The cost to councils

For every empty property in the UK, local authorities miss out on a much-needed source of income. This is due to the New Homes Bonus, a grant paid by central government to encourage bringing empty homes back into use. And councils can ill afford to pass up on funding: pressures on housing supply, scarce resources, and stretched budgets are intensifying the strain on local authorities post-pandemic, making the prospect of unlocking millions of pounds in revenue even more appealing.

But the window of opportunity appears to be closing fast. New Homes Bonus payments to councils are already falling by £66 million – or 10% – in 2022/23, meaning that urgent action is needed to get empty properties lived in again before the funding is removed altogether.

We have the solution

Fortunately, councils can tackle the empty homes problem and maximise the returns available without stretching their resources further. By partnering with Capacitygrid by Liberata, authorities can place the administrative burden into the hands of external experts and take advantage of a seamless, end-to-end service.

Our Empty Homes Review solution utilises specialist data matching technology and a network of experienced inspectors and revenue practitioners to carry out an exhaustive review and validation of vacant properties, often on a risk and reward basis. This fully managed service supports local authorities to bring empty homes back into use and attract lucrative New Homes Bonus funding – a rare win-win in this challenging economic landscape.

Councils have nothing to lose: with a long-term empty (LTE) property removal rate over three times the national average, Capacitygrid’s Empty Homes Review service tackles the social and financial challenges of the UK housing crisis and helps local authorities to maximise precious funding opportunities while they still can.

Contact us to find out more about how Capacitygrid can take charge of your Empty Homes Review.

UK Housing Crisis