Where’s the solution for London’s empty homes?

June 15, 2023

One of our directors, Tony Draper, who for many years has campaigned for empty homes to be occupied – he was closely involved with the creation of Kent County Council’s ‘No Use Empty’ initiative – is dismayed by the sheer volume of London’s empty homes and, more importantly, the lack of a solution.

Reading a recent article by Greg Pitcher, London’s empty homes could be worth £20bn: which borough has the most? , Tony says the journalist looked at empty properties from an unusual perspective – property value, estimating that £20 billion-worth of residential property could be empty in London.

Tony goes on to say:

“While the reasons for homes being empty are varied and sometimes justifiable e.g. recent death, property being renovated etc, the focus of this article is on properties being used for investment purposes, rather than as a home.

“Indeed, this is a very interesting point as it raises the question as to when the homes became an investment and not a place for someone to live and make into a home.

“While there are certain areas of London where this is more of an issue, it is becoming an increasing issue, with developers often marketing their schemes internationally.

“What is the solution?  Nothing easy I’m afraid.  The government say that local authorities have a raft of powers, including compulsory purchase orders (CPOs), empty dwelling management orders (EDMOs) and increasing council tax by up to 300%.

“However, CPOs are slow, cumbersome and costly.  They will require the acquiring authority to demonstrate that it is in the public interest to use these powers, which can be a high bar to meet.

“Similarly, EDMOs when first introduced had a fairly low test of being able to demonstrate that the property had been vacant for at least two years.  This was amended shortly after the introduction of EDMOs to include that the property was being vandalised or used for anti-social purposes. 

“As a consequence, few, if any, EDMOs have been secured in London.

“With property values of some of these empty properties being so high, the increased council tax is not a sufficient deterrent.

“Sadly, no new ideas to tackle this problem were set out in the article and it is clear that government don’t consider this to be an issue worthy of further attention at this time.”

Does anyone care to start a debate on this issue?  If so, please direct message us.