Record drop of empty homes in England

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The number of empty homes in England fell by the biggest ever annual drop in 2013 to 635,127, research has found.

According to today’s figures compiled by campaigning charity Empty Homes, the amount of empty homes in England decreased by 75,000 to 635,127 in 2013 – the lowest level ever recorded.

In contrast, the number of empty homes reduced by just 58,000, from 768,000 to 710,00 between 2008 and 2012.

David Ireland, chief executive of Empty Homes, said government changes to council tax that took effect in 2013 – such as allowing local authorities to charge more council tax on homes standing empty for more than two years – were chiefly responsible for the fall.

The number of long-term empty homes – homes that have been empty for more than six months – dropped by more than 27,000 to a record low of 232,600.

Birmingham recorded the largest annual reduction in empty homes - by 2,889, while in 14 London boroughs including Ealing, Camden and Hounslow, the number of long-term empty homes bucked the national trend and increased.

Mr Ireland said: ‘The major [reason for the nationwide decrease] is almost certainly the effect of changes to council tax charging. This has created strong incentives for owners to get their properties into use as soon as possible to avoid incurring extra council tax.’

But he added: ‘Tax changes often create an immediate impact as people adapt to minimise their liability, but there is no guarantee that this effect will automatically continue. Local authorities and government will need to work hard to ensure the fantastic progress seen this year is maintained.’