The 2015 Dwelling Stock Estimate, released by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG), found that there were 23.5 million homes in England as of 31 March 2015, an increase of 171,000, or 0.71%, on the same period the year before.
The number of homes left vacant stood at 600,179 at 5 October 2015 which was 1.6% lower than the previous year. The decline of almost 10,000 properties year-on-year brought the stock of empty homes to its lowest level on record.
Of these empty properties, around 204,000 were long-term vacant.
Stephen Wasserman, director of bridging lender West One Loans, said the government’s pledge to address England’s housing shortage by committing to large-scale projects, including building starter homes, had not improved the ‘here and now’ situation.
“These disappointing DCLG stats represent the current shortage of places to live in England, which is why we are seeing hikes in house prices and rising rents,” said Wasserman. “While the number of dwellings has increased by 0.71% year-on-year, it’s important to remember we have a growing population which overshadows this progress.”
Wasserman said that while the stock of empty homes had reduced, there remained an opportunity to boost available housing by converting even more vacant properties which would help to curb further price hikes.
He urged developers to consider short-term finance as a means to make vacant properties habitable.
“Banks often won’t lend against these properties due to their state of disrepair, so developers should consider short-term finance as a way to fund the renovation of these potential homes,” he said.
“Bringing these properties back into the housing supply would be a major step in conquering the crisis.”
Housing and planning minister, Brandon Lewis, said the decrease in the number of empty houses was a sign that the government was moving in the right direction to address the housing crisis.
“We are turning around the housing market and making sure the best use is made of all housing including empty homes,” he said.
“We are very clear that a house should be a home which is why we have taken action to stop homes being bought up and left as an empty investment.”