These are just some of the findings of CPRE's research into vacant housing in England's northern regions, published yesterday, in a new leaflet 'Anybody home? Empty homes and their environmental consequences'.
'Anybody home?' finds that 817,000 new houses are planned for the three northern regions of England to the year 2016. At present rates over 380,000 of these might be built on greenfield sites, while over 243,500 houses lie empty.
Examples show that in many areas reusing empty homes could negate the need for any greenfield housing development.
Local authorityGreenfield housing Providing landEmpty
land allocationfor at least ...homes
Newcastle upon Tyneover 100 ha (UDP2,500 homes6,840
Bradford120 ha (UDP 3,000 homes10,226
Easington32% (Local Plan1,000 homes1,711
Kingston upon Hull261 ha (Local Plan6,000 homes5,344
Reasons for the high levels of vacant housing include:
- poor housing condition and the relatively high cost of refurbishment
- a decline in investment in the housing stock
- problem estates
- a lack of information for owners on letting out vacant properties
Changes to planning policy are needed so that:
- making the best use of vacant homes is seen as a key opportunity for accommodating household growth
- reductions in vacant housing contribute to future housing supply, and are coupled with a reduction in the land allocated for new housing
- planning policies favour the reuse of existing buildings before the use of greenfield sites
The government also needs to:
- provide funding to bring empty properties back into use through regeneration initiatives like the Single Regeneration Budget and the New Deal for Communities
- remove the anomaly of no VAT being levied for greenfield development while 17.5% VAT is charged for renovating empty property
New regional organisations - regional development agencies and regional chambers - also have an important role to play. They should target vacant housing in their strategies; bring together a range of funding partners; and provide advice on bringing properties back into use.
Cate Hammond, CPRE's northern regional policy officer, concluded:
'A comprehensive approach at the national, regional and local level is needed to bring empty homes back into use. At present the government is reviewing planning policy on housing, regional development agencies and regional chambers are emerging, and planning policies in England's three northern regions are being reviewed. This provides a unique opportunity to address the issue of vacant housing to the benefit of the environment of both town and country.'