More than 1,000 empty homes in Dacorum, despite housing crisis

Campaigners say abandoned dwellings should be repurposed to tackle England's housing crisis

Friday, 19th November 2021, 10:43 am
Updated Friday, 19th November 2021, 10:44 am

More than 1,000 properties are sitting empty in Dacorum 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.

Figures from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities show there were at least 1,139 empty properties in Dacorum at the most recent count in October – up 3 per cent from 1,104 last year.

The image has been used for illustrative purposes

Of those, 613 had been gathering dust for six months or more, and at least 83 had been abandoned for more than two years.

The figures, which cover properties subject to council tax, also show 311 dwellings in the area were listed as second homes last month.

Different DLUHC figures show in 2020-21, 840 households in Dacorum were entitled to council support after becoming homeless or at risk of homelessness.

A spokesperson for Dacorum Borough Council said: "The council is committed to tackling Empty Homes, which can negatively impact on residents and the local community, we also recognise that such properties could provide vital additional units of affordable housing to meet demand in the local area.

"The council’s commitment to tackling Empty Homes is outlined in our Private Sector and dedicated Housing Strategies, we work closely with home owners wherever possible to identify solutions to bringing such homes back into use.

"Where we are unable to identify a suitable solution to bring homes back in to use, it may be necessary for us to consider enforcement action in line with our enforcement policy and the Housing Act 2004.

"Through our partnership work and engagement with local authorities and organisations such as Action against Empty Homes, we are continually exploring and identifying funding streams/opportunities to develop initiatives that can be used to bring Empty Homes back into use."

For more about Dacorum Borough Council's housing strategies visit: www.dacorum.gov.uk/home/housing/services-we-offer/strategies-and-policies.

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."

Across England, the number of empty homes – dwellings that are unoccupied and unfurnished – fell by 2 per cent to 468,000, while the number of second homes dropped by 4 per cent to 253,300 after rising by the same percentage in October last year.

Owners of properties which have laid empty for two years or more can be charged an extra 100 per cent council tax on top of their bill – rising to as much as 300 per cent if the home has been empty for a decade or longer.

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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 per cent for more than a decade.

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."

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."