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Hundreds of empty homes in Havering, figures show

PUBLISHED: 07:43 13 March 2018

Pressure on the government to act on empty homes has been mounting in recent years. Photo: PA.

Pressure on the government to act on empty homes has been mounting in recent years. Photo: PA.

PA Archive/PA Images

Hundreds of houses and flats in Havering have been standing empty for at least half a year, official figures have shown.

The council reported 494 long-term vacant homes in October last year, which was up from 429 in 2016.

The data was published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, and is based on council tax records.

Pressure on the government to act on empty homes has been mounting in recent years, as the UK’s housing shortage has led to a decline in home ownership and rising house prices.

If an area has a significant number of empty homes it is more likely to see an increase in vandalism, the collapse of local businesses, and experience a sense of neglect, according to research by the House of Commons Library.

In Havering, there were 246 vacant properties owned by the council, and 66 by housing associations, a figure which includes those that had been empty for less than six months.

Of these 246 houses, 172 are sheltered units and 74 are general need units.

However, of the 246 vacant properties, only seven are not associated with Havering Council’s estate regeneration programme or the sheltered accommodation review.

Councillor Damian White, cabinet member for housing said: “The figures from the Ministry of Housing are slightly misleading because they also refer to properties being held for redevelopment on the council’s estate regeneration programme and the sheltered accommodation housing scheme.

“We have a number of properties we are trying to get into use, most are built in the 60s and 70s and don’t have bathrooms and a lot of people don’t wish to occupy them.

“As part of our Estate Regeneration Programme we are going to redevelop these houses.”

The number of empty homes in Havering has been falling in the last few years, down 11% since 2014.

The latest figures show that the vast majority of empty properties were privately owned. But some of those left vacant were homes for social or affordable rent managed by the council or housing associations.

Cllr White explained that if a property has been vacant for more than six months, then the council does have powers to take over privately owned properties through compulsory purchase orders.

However, this is often a last resort.

“We do have a periodic review, and we do work with the owners to make sure they are brought back into the occupation,” said Cllr White.

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