LETTER: Empty homes could ease housing crisis

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RADICAL plans are needed to get almost a quarter of a million empty homes back onto the market and help ease the housing crisis.

The properties stand empty despite 1.4 million people being stuck on waiting lists for council houses and homelessness rising.

Yet the housing crisis could be eased by bringing the 218,000 long-term empty homes – those unoccupied for more than six months in England – back into use.

To get those empty homes on the market quicker, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR North), the UK’s leading progressive thinktank, proposes letting local government decide their own taxes and funding programmes for empty homes and cutting from two years to one the qualifying period for taxing empty homes.

It’s totally unacceptable to think that while thousands of people are homeless, we have nearly a quarter of a million properties that stand empty.

With a better tax and funding system, we can bring more homes onto the market, and encourage those holding empty properties to fund the costs of those who don’t have a place to call home.

More fundamental changes are needed to address the housing crisis – mainly a massive increase in house building – but bringing empty homes back into use can ease the strain faced by people at the sharp end of the housing shortage.

Bill Davies,

Research Fellow at IPPR North.