Long-term vacant homes now account for £53.6bn of property, analysis finds

The number of empty homes across England has risen for the second consecutive year to more than 216,000, the highest level since 2012, according to official figures.

The number of long-term vacant properties – those empty for at least six months – rose by 5.3% to 216,186 in the 12 months to October, according to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. It is the highest level since 2012, when 254,059 properties were unoccupied.

The rise compares with a 2.6% increase the previous year – before that, the number of empty homes had fallen every year since 2008.

Analysis by modular home and school builder Project Etopia shows long-term vacant homes now account for £53.6bn of property in England.

Coastal towns and cities, led by Portsmouth, posted the biggest percentage rise in long-term empty homes: the number more than doubled to 939 in the year to October.

Hartlepool, in northern England, had the second-biggest rise, up 53.8% to 726, while Eastbourne, on the south coast, posted the third-largest increase, rising 48.4% to 518.

The number of long-term empty homes in London has also gone up, by 11% to 22,481 – representing £10.7bn worth of property.

Outside the capital, Birmingham had the highest overall number in England, with 4,283 long-term vacant homes, up slightly from 4,280; followed by Durham with 4,130, Bradford with 4,090 and Liverpool with 3,889. However, in Durham and Liverpool the number of empty homes fell by 9% and 4.8% respectively.

The Project Etopia chief executive, Joseph Daniels, said: “The stubbornly high number of empty homes is compounding the housing market’s deeply entrenched problems with lack of supply remaining a key driver of high prices and low affordability.

“New homes are not being built fast enough and the constant spectre of abandoned properties aggravates an already tough market.”

In London, Southwark, with 1,766 vacant properties, had the biggest number of empty homes. Croydon, to the south of the capital, had the second-highest number of long-term empty homes with 1,521, followed by Camden in the north, with 1,210.

Kit Malthouse, the housing minister, said: “Local authorities have a range of powers at their disposal to tackle long-term empty homes, and I expect them to make full use of these so everyone has a roof over their head.

“All local authorities in England have the power to charge homes that have been empty for at least two years an extra 50% on their council tax bill, and now from April, they can increase this to 100%.”