Birmingham has got thousands of empty properties while families remain homeless
Nearly 10,000 properties are sitting empty in Birmingham each year, while households in the area continue to be faced with homelessness, figures show.
Campaigners say abandoned dwellings should be repurposed to tackle England’s housing crisis, after councils across the country recorded hundreds of thousands of empty homes.
The problem is particularly prominent in the run up to Christmas when families look forward to spending time together at home.
Figures from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) show there were at least 9,850 empty properties in Birmingham at the most recent count in October.
Of those, 5,523 had been gathering dust for six months or more, and at least 2,138 had been abandoned for more than two years.
The figures, which cover properties subject to council tax, also show 1,479 dwellings in the area were listed as second homes last month.
Different DLUHC figures show give some idea of the urgent need of housing in Birmingham with 4,784 households in the city entitled to council support after becoming homeless or at risk of homelessness in 2020-21.
In 2020-21, councils across the country identified more than 268,000 households as homeless or at risk of homelessness.
Are empty homes subject to Council Tax charges?
Owners of properties which have laid empty for two years or more can be charged an extra 100% council tax on top of their bill – rising to as much as 300% if the home has been empty for a decade or longer.
Nationally, around 72,000 dwellings were subject to a council tax premium in October, around a fifth of which had been abandoned for between five and 10 years and 10% for more than a decade.
Across England, the number of empty homes – dwellings that are unoccupied and unfurnished – fell by 2% to 468,000, while the number of second homes dropped by 4% to 253,300 after rising by the same percentage in October last year.
The downward trend is not so prominent in Birmingham which just saw a 1% decrease from 9,996 last year.
What should be done to make use of these properties for homeless people?
The Local Government Association has called on the Government to give local authorities greater powers to acquire empty homes.
A spokesman for the LGA, which represents councils, said: “At a time when we face a chronic housing shortage across the country and high levels of homelessness, it is wrong for so many homes to be left empty.”
Polly Neate, chief executive of housing charity Shelter, said the country’s housing emergency is ruining lives, adding that it was deeply frustrating to see properties sitting empty “when so many people are in desperate need of a safe and secure home”.
She said more should be done to put empty homes back into use but added: “Even if we filled every one of these empty properties, we still wouldn’t have solved the chronic housing shortage we face.
“The only way to solve the housing crisis is to build a new generation of green social housing.”
What has the government said about the housing crisis?
A Government spokesman said more than 243,000 new homes were delivered last year, with £12 billion being invested in affordable housing over five years.
He said the number of empty homes had fallen by 30,000 since 2010, adding: “We have taken significant action to prevent empty homes.
“This includes giving councils stronger powers to increase council tax on empty homes and take over their management, and introducing higher rates of stamp duty and tightening tax rules for second homes.”
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