Empty home numbers increase

The Halifax 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 3206 (1.1%) from 295,519 in April 2010. Long-term empty homes now account for 1.6% of all private homes in England.

House prices are generally lower in areas that have a high proportion of empty homes. Property prices in the ten English LADs with the highest proportion of empty homes are, on average, 15% (£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 (7%).

Stephen Noakes, Mortgage Director at Halifax, said: "This research further 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".   

The North West has by far the highest number of long-term empty homes (63,696), accounting for over a fifth (22%) 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 (1.0%).

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 (-9%).

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 (11%).

Martin Ellis, Halifax housing economist, said: "While 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."

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