Every day we hear about the housing crisis. Politicians tell us we must build more housing urgently. Yet they say next to nothing about empty homes. There are more than 600,000 empty homes in England, enough to cut the housing waiting list by half.
Here in Shropshire, there are 4,375 empty homes. That’s more than 3% of the county’s housing stock. If they were brought back into use, they could provide homes for four in five of the households on the waiting list.
More than a third of the empty homes in Shropshire have been vacant for six months or more. It’s shocking that nearly 200 council and social homes are empty.
A few years back, this problem was being tackled. In the two years after 2013, nearly 600 empty homes were brought back into use in Shropshire. Since then, the number of empty homes in the county has been growing, not shrinking.
Empty homes can blight communities. They make town centres look desolate once the shops close.
It’s a disgrace that there are so many empty homes in this county. If we matched the performance of similar rural counties, we would have an extra 262 homes for people to live in. If we were as good as the best of those counties, Herefordshire, we would have an extra 814 homes available.
Since 2011, Shropshire Council has received £30 million under the government’s New Homes Bonus scheme. Instead of using some of this money to bring more empty homes back into use, it has cut back on the numbers of housing staff trying to get empty homes occupied.
More must be done to tackle housing need in Shropshire. The best place to start is by bringing these empty homes back into use. It is time for Shropshire Council to act.
Long term vacant are properties empty for six months or more.
England 2017. There were 1,155,285 households on waiting lists for social housing. Bringing the 605,891 empty homes back into use could reduce the waiting lists by half. It would provide accommodation for the 88,470 people officially classified as homeless at some point during the year. Of these, 59,110 were in priority need of accommodation. Shelter said 300,000 people were homeless or in inadequate accommodation.
Shropshire 2017. There were 5,370 people on waiting lists. The 4,375 empty homes would cut that by more than 80%. During the year, Shropshire Council designated 646 people as homeless, of which 260 were in priority need.
Similar rural counties. These are known as Shropshire’s statistical neighbours: Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Somerset, Suffolk, Wiltshire, Worcestershire.
Ownership of empty homes. Nine in ten vacant homes are privately owned. Of the 4,375 empty homes in Shropshire in 2017, 37 were owned by Shropshire Council, 157 by housing associations. Data on other public sector homes, those owned by the military, NHS, etc., has not been collected since 2016, when there were 138 vacant homes in this category.