Vacant properties should house those on waiting lists, says GMB

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Overall there is no alternative but for councils to increase the supply of council homes for rent at genuinely affordable rents, but using the already existing housing stock to house people is something that shouldn’t be overlooked, says GMB London

GMB has called for London local authorities to be given powers to use vacant dwellings left empty for prolonged periods to house people on their housing waiting list. This after a study by GMB which compares the number of long-term vacant dwellings (those empty for at least six months) in each borough in 2018 and the number of households on London Local Authority housing waiting lists in the same year.

In 2018 London had a total of 22,481 long-term vacant dwellings, 2,244 more than the year before. At the same time, in 2018 there were 232,409 households on Local Authority housing waiting lists.

Southwark is the borough which in 2018 had the most total long-term vacant dwellings in London with 1,766. The number of households on the Southwark Council housing waiting list in 2018 was 6,778.

Other London boroughs with a high number of long-term vacant dwellings in 2018 include Croydon which had 1,521 long-term vacant dwellings and 5,138 households on their waiting list; Camden had 1,210 long-term vacant dwellings and 3,074 on their waiting list; Kensington and Chelsea had 1,115 long-term vacant dwellings and 3,330 on their waiting list; Lewisham also had 1,115 long-term vacant dwellings and 9,921 households on their waiting list, and Barnet had 1,065 long-term vacant dwellings and had 2,648 households on their housing waiting list in 2018.

The figures covering 33 boroughs in London are set out in the table below, ranked by the borough that had the highest number of long-term vacant dwellings in 2018. This is from a new study by GMB London Region of official data for 33 boroughs in London.

It compares the number of long-term vacant dwellings in 2018 by borough and the number of households on each local authority’s housing waiting list in 2018.

Rank London Boroughs No. of long-term vacant dwellings (Oct 2018) No. households on Local Authority waiting lists (2018)
London 22,481 232,409
1 Southwark 1,766 6,778
2 Croydon 1,521 5,138
3 Camden 1,210 3,074
4 Kensington and Chelsea 1,115 3,330
5 Lewisham 1,115 9,921
6 Barnet 1,065 2,648
7 Enfield 1,026 3,444
8 Hackney 933 12,766
9 Lambeth 920 23,364
10 Newham 894 26,139
11 Ealing 850 13,685
12 Greenwich 830 13,618
13 Haringey 732 9,650
14 Sutton 686 1,587
15 Tower Hamlets 634 18,808
16 Havering 630 2,234
17 Islington 621 14,469
18 Merton 611 9,802
19 Hillingdon 563 1,687
20 Waltham Forest 552 7,330
21 Bexley 488 6,613
22 Richmond upon Thames 488 3,944
23 Bromley 482 3,438
24 Redbridge 457 5,408
25 Brent 405 3,498
26 Westminster 304 3,907
27 Harrow 299 1,883
28 Kingston upon Thames 292
29 Hammersmith and Fulham 278 1,644
30 City of London 244 656
31 Hounslow 191 2,157
32 Wandsworth 173 5,202
33 Barking and Dagenham 106 4,587

Warren Kenny, GMB regional secretary, said: “Giving local councils the powers to use homes left empty for prolonged periods would help to cut the unacceptably high waiting lists across London.

“Bringing long term empty homes and flats back into use has to have a very high priority. Residential units above shops, in particular, can be left unoccupied for long periods and councils should be alert to the potential of such empty homes to cut waiting lists.

“Property owners knowing that councils had such powers would be a big incentive for these owners to keep properties occupied. It would also reduce the incentive for overseas investors investing in buy to leave empty to do so.

“Overall there is no alternative but for councils to increase the supply of council homes for rent at genuinely affordable rents, but using the already existing housing stock to house people is something that shouldn’t be overlooked.”

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