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logoBritains Empty Homes


A recent article in the Time's "Bricks and Mortar" supplement has highlighted the vast number of empty homes in Britain. The paper puts the figure at 840,000. Added to this, is an estimated potential 420,000 more, in the form of empty pubs and shop space, bringing the total to well over a million. This would be over a third of the government's three million target.


The majority of these empty dwellings are well abused local authority houses in run-down areas, but some are new build flats purposely left untenanted by so called "buy to leave" investors. "Buy to leave" refers to investors who buy a property to simply sit on it for a while before reselling. Because of the massive hikes in property value in recent years, it hasn't even been necessary to bother getting in a tenant. Other houses sit in respectably spruced up areas, having great potential, but for many, it would appear that the financial incentives just aren't there. So why won't people take these projects on, and why are we building new houses on green belt when these properties could be used to solve the affordable housing crisis?


• Local authorities will now receive the same reward via the Housing and Planning Delivery Grant for bringing an old terrace-house back to life as building a flat on a new estate.
• An extension of the VAT reduction applicable to the renovation of an empty property (down from 17.5% to 5% after 2 years instead of 3).
• Local authorities are to be “encouraged” to reduce the 50% discount in council tax on empty properties, therefore reducing the financial incentives of owning an empty home.

However, at the same time, the chancellor also said that that councils will no longer have to keep a register of empty homes returned for use, which basically makes a mockery of the first point. 
Empty properties attract crime such as fly-tipping, vandalism, arson and squatters. If you live next door to an empty house you can expect it to bring down the price of yours by an average of 18%.


So what are the options if you own one of these dilapidated properties? You can apply for a grant from your local council or housing association in exchange for a lease on the property. Housing associations also have a purchase-and-repair scheme that might be worth pursuing. Finally, you could sell by auction. A list of auctioneers is available from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors www.rics.org