Sunderland neighbourhoods ‘blighted’ by almost 2,000 empty homes

Empty properties are on the increase. Picture by PA Wire/PA Images
Empty properties are on the increase. Picture by PA Wire/PA Images

Almost 2,000 homes in Sunderland have been lying empty for six months or more, figures show.

Housing charity Action on Empty Homes has warned that empty homes reveal the “stark reality” of the country’s “broken” housing market.

In September there were 1,925 long-term empty homes in the area – homes that campaigners say could be brought back into use to help families in need of social housing.

That means half of the vacant properties in the area had been sitting empty for six months or more.

In total, 3,958 properties were found by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to be “unoccupied and substantially unfurnished”.

The number of long-term empty homes has risen since 2017, when there were 1,800 such properties – an increase of 7%.

Action on Empty Homes campaigns to bring more empty properties back into use for people in need of housing.

It believes that official figures underestimate the true scale of the problem.

Government statistics do not include derelict properties that could be refurbished, or second homes that are rarely occupied.

The vast majority of the long-term empty properties were low-value houses in the bottom two council tax bands, which made up 86% of the total.

Action on Empty Homes campaign manager Chris Bailey said that many neighbourhoods at the lower end of the housing market are “blighted by empty homes and under-investment”.

He said: “Empty homes are a canary in the coalmine telling us the stark reality of our broken housing market. The time to fix that is now.

“Across England more than a million families are on social housing waiting list, and tens of thousands are in often unsuitable temporary accommodation.

“Every empty home is a wasted opportunity to make a family’s life better, and at a time of national housing crisis this is more critical than ever. The Government needs to invest money in getting these homes back into use, particularly in lower value markets, in order to meet the high level of housing need in those communities.”

Across England, 228,000 properties had been unoccupied for more than six months, up from 217,000 last year.

Polly Neate, chief executive of homelessness charity Shelter, said: “Looking at the figures today, it’s exasperating to see that the number of empty properties has increased at a time when there are so many families without a safe and secure place to call home.”

But she said that the Government should prioritise building more social housing first.