Properties that are deliberately kept empty by wealthy owners waiting for price rises would be taken over by councils if Labour wins power in the next general election, freeing up homes for those who need them.
In London, around 1,000 super-luxury apartments built last year, valued at £1,500 per square foot, sit Empty and unsold as the capital’s luxury new-build market struggles more than any other sector in the country. Labelled “empty and part-built posh ghost towers” by property buying agent Henry Pryor, the apartments add to the growing number of empty homes across the UK.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to rectify the problem by taking over long-term vacant properties as one of a number of ways of helping the fledgling housing market. He said on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “We would give local authorities the power to take over deliberately kept empty properties, because there is something grossly insulting about the idea you would build some luxury block and deliberately keep it empty.”
Empty homes in the UK
Corbyn first voiced similar intentions in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster, which left hundreds of residents from the tower block homeless while swathes of high-end properties sat empty and unused across the borough of Kensington and Chelsea. He called for local vacant homes to be requisitioned for the use of the victims, stating: “It can’t be acceptable that in London we have luxury buildings and luxury flats left empty as land banking for the future while the homeless and the poor look for somewhere to live.”
Existing powers mean councils can issue empty dwelling management orders to take over certain qualifying properties that have been vacant for more than two years and then let them out, and Corbyn has said Labour would go further to enforce this. It emerged earlier this year that an estimated 60,000 dwellings across the UK had been sitting empty for more than two years, while 11,000 had been unoccupied for more than 10 years, although this is actually an improvement from the figures seen in 2010.
Other measures proposed by Corbyn to solve some of the UK’s housing issues include creating life-time tenancies for renters, as well as increased regulation of the private rented sector, and 8,000 homes being made available for homeless people.