as a valuable contribution to the debate on ensuring long-term empty
homes are brought back into use.
regions, Stephen Byers, said that in areas of neighbourhood decline
and abandonment, empty homes blighted the lives of individuals and
'In all areas we will work with our partners to bring long-term empty
homes back into use. We will continue to provide funding for the
excellent work of the Empty Homes Agency, and encourage local
authorities to develop strategies to tackle this serious problem both
in the social and the private sectors.
'In areas of high demand, empty homes are a potentially valuable
supply of housing. In areas of low demand, bringing abandoned
properties back into use is essential to secure a lasting future for
communities in areas affected by neighbourhood decline.'
Mr Byers welcomed the Committee's analysis of the issue, adding that
the report was aligned closely with the government's own thinking,
particularly in the need for action to turn round the incidence of
low demand for housing.
'In some urban areas, streets of boarded up and abandoned properties
are actually adding to the spiral of decline. We are determined to
tackle this. That is why we have invited nine of the worst affected
areas to work with government to establish pathfinder projects to
restore areas suffering from low demand.'
1. The transport, local government and the regions select committee
published their Report on Empty Homes on 20 March.
2. The bulk of the committee's recommendations concerned the need for
intervention in inner urban areas, suffering from low demand for
housing. DTLR estimates 880,000 homes are in areas of low demand, of
which 520,000 are private and 360,000 social housing.
3. Low demand housing is defined as:
i) in the case of private sector housing, neighbourhoods of at least
50 dwellings where private sector housing is predominant and one or
more of the following symptoms apply:
- private property value particularly low and/or falling in absolute
- high private sector void rate;
- high turnover of population;
- significant incidence of long-term private sector voids or
- visibly high incidence of properties for sale or let.
ii) In the case of social housing, housing in blocks or management
patches of at least 50 dwellings where one or more of the following
symptoms is exhibited:
- a small or non-existent waiting list;
- tenancy offers frequently refused;
- high rates of voids available for letting;
- high rates of tenancy turnover;
iii) or where marketing initiatives or exceptional allocations
polices have been implemented to counter low demand/unpopularity.
4. On 10 April the secretary of state invited nine of the areas most
acutely affected by low demand to work with government to establish
pathfinder projects to tacklethe problem. Pathfinder project areas
have been selected by analysis of the prevalence of low demand for
housing, and study of different housing markets. The details of the
Manchester: north and east Manchester/central Salford; Merseyside:
inner Liverpool, south Sefton and parts of Wirral; East Lancashire:
Blackburn, Hyndburn, Burnley, Pendle Oldham/Rochdale: South
Yorkshire: north Sheffield, north Rotherham, south Barnsley and west
Doncaster; Humberside: Hull and adjacent areas of the East Riding of
Yorkshire; Tyneside: Newcastle, Gateshead; North Staffordshire: Stoke
on Trent and east Newcastle under Lyme; Birmingham/Sandwell: north
west Birmingham and east Sandwell.
5. Empty homes are not just an issue for low demand areas. The
government is determined to reduce the levels of vacant dwellings in
all areas, and has increased funding for the Empty Homes Agency to
work with local authorities on empty homes strategies. In addition,
the£1bn regeneration package announced in Budget 2001 included
several initiatives to tackle empty homes and redundant commercial
properties, such as reducing VAT to 5 per cent on the cost of
renovation homes empty for 3 years or more, and 100 per cent capital
allowances for conversion of redundant space over shops into flats.