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Total number of empty homes in England up 1.8% in 2011

The number, which includes all private and public empty homes, including those vacant for less than six months, jumped from 650,127 in April 2010 to 662,105 at the same period this year.
An empty home is classified as a dwelling which is vacant because it is either between occupants, undergoing modernisation, in disrepair or awaiting demolition. A long term empty home is a property vacant for more than six months.
The Halifax report does, however, report some positive change. While the total number of empty homes is on the rise, the number of long term empty private homes in England has fallen to its lowest level since 2008.
Private long term empty homes account for 44% of all empty housing, with the rest taken up by short term empty private homes and all empty public homes, including council and social housing.
There were 292,313 long term empty private homes in England in April 2011, a decline of 3,206 (1.1%) from 295,519 in April 2010. Long term empty homes now account for 1.6% of all private homes in England.

The survey reveals that house prices are generally lower in areas that have a high proportion of empty homes. Property prices in the ten English Local Authority Districts (LADs) with the highest proportion of empty homes are, on average, 15%, or £23,493 below their regional average.
Pendle in the North West has the largest discount with houses trading at 29%, £38,831, below the average house price in the region. Dover has the next highest discount with prices 26% below the South East average. Wellingborough is the only one of the ten LADs with the highest proportion of empty homes where the average house price is above the regional average of 7%.

‘This research demonstrates the significant impacts that empty homes have on the housing market, and it is clear that action is necessary. Long term empty homes account for about 1.6% of all private homes in England. And at a time when first-time buyers are still facing numerous obstacles to getting on the ladder, it is imperative we look further at the issue as an industry,’ said Stephen Noakes, mortgage director at the Halifax.

On a regional basis the North West has by far the highest number of long term empty homes at 63,696, accounting for over a fifth of the total across England. The North West also has the highest number of long term empty homes as a proportion of all privately owned properties, at 2.5%.

In contrast, all southern regions have a proportion of long term empty private homes that is below the national average with the lowest in the South East at 1%.

The number of long term empty private homes in the North East declined by 19% over the past year from 20,624 in April 2010 to 16,724 in April 2011. The East of England recorded the second largest fall of 9%. Yorkshire and the Humber recorded the biggest increase in long term empty private homes.

The number of long term empty private homes rose in four of the nine English regions. The largest increase was in Yorkshire and the Humber at 11%.

‘Whilst it is encouraging that the number of private homes in England that have been empty for at least six months has declined over the last few years, it is still at a high level, particularly in the context of the country's ongoing housing shortage. Locally, the existence of empty homes remains a particular problem in a number of areas, especially in the North West. In some cases, the proportion of empty homes is more than double the national average,’ said Martin Ellis, Halifax housing economist.