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Charity calls for national investment as number of empty homes jumps in much of east London

PUBLISHED: 07:00 09 October 2019

Action on Empty Homes is calling for national investment to bring empty homes back into use. Many east London boroughs saw a rise in the number of unused homes between 2017 and 2018 as the housing crisis continues across the capital and the UK. Picture: Rui Vieira/PA Archive/PA Images

Action on Empty Homes is calling for national investment to bring empty homes back into use. Many east London boroughs saw a rise in the number of unused homes between 2017 and 2018 as the housing crisis continues across the capital and the UK. Picture: Rui Vieira/PA Archive/PA Images

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A charity is calling for a national investment campaign to bring empty homes back into use as the rate of houses without residents increases across much of east London.

Action on Empty Homes released its report on the problem at the end of September, calling for a wide range of actions to stem the number of unused homes, including an influx of cash across the UK to help councils get shelter for people in need.

Newham and Havering saw the most alarming jumps in homes left empty for more than six months between 2017 and 2018: Havering saw a 28 per cent rise to 630 unused homes and Newham saw a 26p increase to 894. The numbers come from the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government.

While Newham had proportionately more homes that were unused in 2018 than the capital's average of 0.7pc, Havering was still below that rate, despite the worrying increase. Tower Hamlets saw a jump of 16pc to 634 in 2018.

Newham and Tower Hamlets saw an increase above the inner London average of 14pc. Havering was well above the outer London average increase of 8pc.

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Action on Empty Homes spokesman Chris Bailey said: "We see perfectly good homes left empty across east London and new build properties snapped up as buy to leave investments or used for AirBnB instead of housing Londoners.

"It is time this stopped and housing needs were met."

But it isn't all bad news. Barking and Dagenham had an 8pc drop to 106 unused homes. In the borough, only 0.14pc of homes are unused, the second lowest rate in London.

Redbridge saw a modest 1pc drop in unused homes to 457.

Authorities have different approaches to the problem. While Redbridge offers grants to landlords to help with repairs, Havering Council charges landlords triple the amount of council tax if they leave a property empty and unfurnished for more than two years.

Havering member for housing, Councillor Joshua Chapman, said it was "committed to reducing the number of empty homes".

The councils for Tower Hamlets, Newham, Barking and Dagenham, and Redbridge did not respond to requests for comment.

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