Almost 13,000 homes have stood empty for at least 10 years, Lib Dems reveal
By Ellen Nicholson
A Liberal Democrat investigation has revealed almost 13,000 homes have been left vacant for over 10 years despite devastating new government statistics which reveal 127,000 children face being homeless at New Year.
Former Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, has declared a "national emergency" and demanded urgent action to alleviate the housing crisis to ensure "every child has the security of a warm home."
The figures collated from over 300 local authorities, uncovered by Liberal Democrat freedom of information requests, also reveal there are a staggering 46,964 homes that have been empty for 5 years or more while there are 313,792 long-term empty homes [defined as over 6-months] across the country.
Some of the worst offending councils include Durham County Council, which has 682 homes that have been empty for over 10 years, with Rother and Manchester totalling 660 and 495 homes respectively.
However, the Liberal Democrat investigation revealed that only 21 councils - fewer than 1 in 10 councils - across the country have made use of Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMO) in the past five years. These are the powers used by local authorities to take over properties that have been empty for at least six months*.
As part of the party's plan to alleviate the housing crisis, the Liberal Democrats are calling for legislation to allow local authorities to increase council tax by up to 500% where properties are being left vacant long-term. The revenues would then be used to build new homes for the community or to invest in local services.
Ellen Nicholson said 'According to Wiltshire Council we know that across In Wiltshire there are currently 700 homes that have been empty for more than six months. Wiltshire Council say that whilst that may sound relatively high, the figure only represents 0.32% of all residential dwellings in Wiltshire and many of those homes will be empty for reasons such as being subject to probate, undergoing refurbishment, owner currently in hospital/care home, or the owner simply does not wish to sell the property. (Wiltshire Council April 2019).
Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron said:
"It is impossible to imagine how hard it is, especially at this time of year, for the tens of thousands of children struggling to get by without somewhere to call home.
"This housing crisis is a national emergency. Tory Ministers should hang their heads in shame. Urgent action is needed now to ensure every child has the security of a warm home.
Tim Farron added: "Communities up and down the country are being torn apart because affluent owners are treating these properties as financial assets.
"Instead, these homes could be turned into affordable places to live for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
"As soon as Parliament returns, Liberal Democrats will be banging on the Government's door to demand councils are given the powers and resources we set out in our manifesto to bring empty homes back into use."