Arthur investigates whether the hundreds of thousands of empty properties in Britain are the answer to the housing crisis.
Recent figures have found that there are nearly 200,000 properties left empty for over six months last year. One tenth of these were within the boundaries of London, a city that is facing the worst housing crises in the country. These properties totalled £43 billion in price based on averages. With this amount of empty property throughout the country, it begs the question as to why they aren’t being used to ease the pressure on the current housing stock.
Part of the reason is the buy-to-leave phenomenon. Where an investor will buy a property, with no intention of living in it or renting it, but instead leaves it idle in the hope that it will increase in price. Whilst a legitimate business move, and often a profitable one, this practice has sparked an angry reaction from many groups that are working to stop the housing crisis. Pressure from these groups has seen councils throughout the country increase tax on second homes and decreasing incentives on empty homes. Others have taken the matter into their own hands, with squatter groups moving into the empty homes.
Whilst the total of empty properties has, in fact, decreased since 2012, the ever increasing prices of houses has led to a housing crisis far worse that five years ago. Property building is on the rise, however Britain is still set to miss its target my quite a way. This will only further the crisis and place more pressure on the current housing stock. It seems impossible for the government to ignore 200,000 homes that could be available for people to live in. These empty properties would have the benefit of being homes to those that need it, whilst also boosting the economy and maybe even potentially decreasing the soaring prices of houses due to a saturation in the market.
Although the owners of these properties cannot be compelled to sell, the mind boggles that they are not taking advantage of one of the most prosperous rental markets in the world, particularly in London.
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