The number of empty homes across the country has fallen to a ten-year low, new figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government have shown.
According to the latest government statistics pertaining to October last year and published this week, there are now a total of 635,127 empty properties reported by local authorities across England and Wales, representing a reduction of one-fifth since 2009.
Moreover, this downturn in unoccupied properties has helped bring about the lowest level of vacant homes since 2004.
Long-term vacant property numbers – those without an inhabitant for six months or more – also fell considerably in the latest statistics, with a drop of approximately one-third over the last four years – 216,050 in 2013 compared to 316,251 in 2009.
A range of measures have been put in place over recent years to transform empty properties up and down the country into suitable and habitable accommodation for residents.
Indeed, the department highlighted the £235 million Empty Homes Programme that is working to bring as many as 12,000 currently unoccupied properties back into full-time use by the end of 2015, as well as £2.2 billion in funding for local authorities to tackle the issue of empty homes in their area through the New Homes Bonus.
Communities minister Stephen Williams said: “I’m delighted to see the numbers of empty homes in this country at their lowest for a decade.
“This is a significant achievement, which is not only delivering more homes but also creating more jobs and apprenticeships, leading to both a stronger economy and a fairer society as these properties are renovated.
“I look forward to seeing how councils and communities build on this success in the coming year.”
Overall, the government has worked hard to tackle the issue of a lack of suitable homes for both buyers and tenants keen to move up the UK property ladder over recent years, with the £19.5 billion Affordable Homes Programme, the Help to Buy scheme and the £1 billion Build to Rent scheme all contributing to meeting the demand for homes across the country.
Furthermore, projects have been launched by myriad local authorities over recent months to bring about a reduction in empty homes in their area. For example, Burnley Council is offering grants of up to £20,000 for individuals willing to take on long-term empty properties and renovate them to an acceptable standard over the coming years.
Howard Baker, council executive member for housing and environment, commented: “The council is committed to doing what it can to bring empty houses back into use to help improve the borough’s housing stock and benefit local communities.”
Meanwhile, regeneration charity Groundwork recently launched its Housing Refurbishment Programme for properties in the north-west of England that is helping to tackle the issue of empty homes in areas including Preston.
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