182 homes stand empty despite borough's empty homes ratio being lowest in London
A Liberal Democrat investigation has revealed that 13,000 homes nationwide have been left vacant for over 10 years, including 182 homes across Wandsworth that are classified as long-term empty (or empty for over six months).
The news comes despite devastating new government statistics which reveal 127,000 children across England face being homeless at New Year.
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.
The new stats show that Wandsworth Council has 17 homes that have been empty for 10 years or more, 38 empty for 5 years or more and a total of 182 currently considered to be long-term empty.
However, in August 2019, research carried out by the Insurance company Admiral, based on Government figures and FoI responses from more than 350 local authorities, has revealed Wandsworth’s empty homes ratio is not only the absolute lowest in London but also among the very lowest in the country.
Wandsworth has only 1.2 empty homes per thousand. This compares to 6.6 in neighbouring Lambeth, 7.3 in Merton, 3.2 in Hammersmith and Fulham, 2.4 in Westminster, 4.4 in Kingston and 5.7 in Richmond.
Wandsworth Council housing spokesman, Cllr Caddy, (pictured above) said: “Bringing empty and derelict homes back into use is an important area of work for all councils so I’m proud we are leading the way in London. There are at least 45 families who have been given the keys to a home in the past year as a direct result of our efforts."
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."
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. The Lib Dems has confirmed that
Wandsworth Council has not used EDMOs despite having almost 200 homes standing empty.
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.
Sue Wixley, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Putney, Southfields and Roehampton said: "The housing crisis came up a great deal at hustings during the 2019 General Election and on the doorstep, so I know that it's something that local people are really worried about. Liberal Democrat figures show that there are 182 homes across Wandsworth which could be turned into places to live for some of the most vulnerable people in our community. That's why the Lib Dems are demanding that councils be given the powers and resources we set out in our manifesto to bring empty homes back into use."
"It's not a cure-all but it could be part of the plan to alleviate the local housing crisis. For example, it could enable the Council to meet its own targets for minimising the number of families living in temporary accommodation or for delivering new accommodation for social housing tenants, both of which it missed in the last year."
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."
December 31, 2019