Empty homes – an exercise in displacement blame?


Empty homes: if councils won’t act, ordinary people should move in so says article in the ‘Guardian’

https://www.theguardian.com/housing-network/2018/jan/08/empty-homes-councils-uk-housing-crisis-squatting

But let’s think about this.

The thought that homes lie empty causes concern in many quarters and righteous indignation in others. But is it so simple as it appears? We have noted before the concept of ‘frictionally’ empty houses – those which are empty but for perfectly good reasons and could not be brought into use immediately. [Just as people who are out of work cannot simply move into a new job right away]. It is part of the normal situation that arises as properties become empty and then are re-occupied. These properties may have only just become empty, the owner may be carrying out works to bring them back into use, the owner may be waiting to sort out family matters, the owner may be in hospital or working abroad but intends to reoccupy the property at some stage. As for those empty for over six months are these ‘frictionally’ empty? Probably not, but we don’t know. The over six month limit appears arbitrary. Someone could have a property on the market for more than six months and is simply waiting for a willing buyer. Somebody else could be working on a property and intending to occupy it. We really need more useful data – number of properties that are empty after say one year where they are not on the market and the owner does not intend to bring them into use.

Focusing on empty homes is one way of not addressing the problems of second, holiday and investment homes or the main cause of housing problems – continuing unsustainable population growth which is enabled, indeed encouraged.

Of course owners of empty homes could renovate them and use them for holiday lets or sell in the second home market, which would not raise calls for compulsory purchase, neither would it provide those locals in housing need with homes!

Policy needs to be evidence based not on myths and assertions.

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