Research from Action on Empty Homes last week revealed there are now more than 216,000 long-term empty homes in England alone, while the rate at which the number of empty homes is increasing is now higher than at any point since the recession.
It’s call for the government to introduce an empty homes fund aimed at improving thousands of these homes so that they are usable has won the support of Nationwide Building Society, with brokers adding their voices to the calls for investment into empty homes.
Bringing dead space back to life
James McGregor, director at Mesa Financial Consultants, said this was not really an issue in the south west of London, where the firm is based, as there are not really any empty properties.
He continued: “Although I am all for investment to make them livable, especially with so many homeless people in the UK at the moment. This could be a great way to combat against homelessness in the UK and utilise dead space.”
Make sure they are mortgageable
Dilpreet Bhagrath, mortgage expert at Trussle, said Nationwide’s argument was “positive”, noting that bringing empty homes back into use is one way the housing crisis can be addressed.
She continued: “Making use of the empty homes across the UK is not only an opportunity to offer more affordable homes, it could also be extremely beneficial for the under-served groups within the housing and mortgage markets. However, it’s crucial that these empty homes are both mortgageable and safe to live in.”
Bhagrath added that just as you can pick up a property at a discount through Right to Buy, there could be an opportunity for empty homes to be offered at a discounted price for those struggling to get onto the housing ladder.
Government has to get tougher
Martin Stewart, director of London Money, argued there should never be people living on the street while there are homes sat empty, and noted that London is “littered with currency hedged properties” that are the size of hotels yet are unoccupied for most of the year.
He continued: “You can still have capitalistic intentions while maintaining a socialist moral compass. The government needs to start getting tougher with many aspects of the market and it starts by taking the housing minister position seriously.”
He suggested that property as an asset class is “barely taxed”, adding: “No one is suggesting culling the golden goose, but is there scope for looking at whether it can be plucked in a slightly different way?”