5.5% of UK homes sit empty
Some 5.5% of housing stock in England and Wales is “truly vacant”, according to data from the Office for National Statistics.
This amounts to 1.5 million, which is eight times the number of the 172,800 properties classed as second homes.
The census data suggests housing developers and wealthy owners are holding onto property they don’t occupy – calling into question the tax system
Andrew Wishart, senior property economist at Capital Economics, said having a relatively light levy on housing compared to upfront costs is partly to blame.
He said: “Rather than having any sort of ongoing tax on the value of homes that might nudge people away from this, we’ve got stamp duty which discourages transactions.
“If you could do something on tax that makes this kind of (hoarding) behaviour more costly, then potentially that’s an easier thing to do than raising house-building.”
London had the highest proportion of unoccupied homes, at 8%, of which 91.6% were vacant and 8.4% were second homes.
The ONS data is based on information from the 2021 Census, which may be skewed due to behaviours during the covid-19 pandemic, when some people left cities like London to stay with relatives over the period.
However the ONS said it asked people where they “usually” lived when taking the data to reduce inaccuracies.