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Union proposes solution to capital homelessness

A leading trade union has called for London local authorities to be given powers to use vacant dwellings left empty for prolonged periods to house people on their housing waiting list.

This is after a study by GMB which compares the number of long-term vacant dwellings (those empty for at least six months) in each borough in 2018 and the number of households on London Local Authority housing waiting lists in the same year.

In 2018 London had a total of 22,481 long-term vacant dwellings, 2,244 more than the year before. At the same time, in 2018 there were 232,409 households on Local Authority housing waiting lists.

Southwark is the borough which in 2018 had the most total long-term vacant dwellings in London with 1,766. The number of households on the Southwark Council housing waiting list in 2018 was 6,778.

Other London boroughs with a high number of long-term vacant dwellings in 2018 include Croydon, Camden, Kensington and Chelsea, Lewisham and Barnet.

Warren Kenny, GMB Regional Secretary said:

Giving local councils the powers to use homes left empty for prolonged periods would help to cut the unacceptably high waiting lists across London.

Bringing long term empty homes and flats back into use has to have a very high priority. Residential units above shops in particular can be left unoccupied for long periods and councils should be alert to the potential of such empty homes to cut waiting lists.

Property owners knowing that councils had such powers would be a big incentive for these owners to keep properties occupied. It would also reduce the incentive for overseas investors investing in buy to leave empty to do so.

Overall there is no alternative but for councils to increase the supply of council homes for rent at genuinely affordable rents, but using the already existing housing stock to house people is something that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Image: Mike McBey / Flickr / Creative Commons.

Founder Member of Campaign Collective, chair of the Public Relations & Communications Association Charity and Not-For-Profit Group. Write mainly about charity, public sector and social enterprise campaigns.