There are almost 25,000 empty homes in London
Almost 25,000 homes in London are being left unoccupied – the highest number since 2012, government data shows.
At the same time, over 56,000 London families relied on temporary accommodation between April and June 2019.
Tom Copley AM, Labour’s London Assembly housing spokesperson, will ask Mayor of London Sadiq Khan at Thursday’s Mayor’s Question Time what is driving the increase in empty homes and what City Hall might be able to do to help bring them back into use.
He said boroughs were trying to tackle the problem but “desperately need a helping hand from the government.”
Copley said: “With so many thousands of families being forced to languish in often insecure and unsuitable temporary accommodation, it is unacceptable for homes to lie empty and unused.
“While bringing empty homes into use won’t solve the housing crisis by itself, it’s in everyone’s interests to clamp down on this entirely needless waste and injustice. But if we are to make any significant progress, local authorities whose budgets have been recklessly slashed over a decade of austerity, desperately need a helping hand from Central government.
“As Mayor of London, Boris Johnson was vocal in his support of much stronger measures to get to grips with this issue. Now that he has his hands on the necessary levers of power, he must restore government funding and devolve much greater powers to local authorities specifically aimed at targeting empty homes.”
The Mayor of London has called for a rise in council tax premiums targeted at vacant homes and by using his powers to clamp down on ‘buy to leave’ property investments through his ‘First Dibs for Londoners’ housing policy.
To tackle long-term vacant properties local authorities can currently charge council tax premiums, implement compulsory purchase orders and enact empty dwelling management orders.
However, blaming austerity, Tom Copley said more Central government funding and devolved powers to help councils were needed get to grips with the scale of the problem.
A 2019 report from Action on Empty Homes made a number of recommendations of how local authorities could be better supported by the government.
Amongst other measures, the report advocates that the government re-establishes dedicated funding programmes to reinforce the efforts of local authorities to create affordable housing from long-term vacant properties.
Action on Empty Homes, the campaign group, has also called for the government to adopt a national investment programme, open to community led organisations, that addresses the underlying causes of high levels of empty homes in the worst affected areas.
Between 2012 and 2015, the then government allocated £156m of funding aimed at bringing empty homes back into use. This was also boosted by an addition £60m as part of the Clusters of Empty Homes Programme.
However, after 2015, the government stopped investment streams specifically targeted at supporting these schemes.
As Mayor of London, in 2014, Boris Johnson called for a change in the law that would enable local authorities to implement a tenfold rise in council tax charges on properties left empty for over a year.
From April this year, the government is allowing councils to charge a premium on council tax of up to 200%, but only for homes left empty for longer than five years.