170 local homes have stood empty for at least 10 years, Lib Dems reveal

A Liberal Democrat investigation has revealed 13,000 homes nationwide have been left vacant for over 10 years, including 170 across Leeds

The news comes despite devastating new government statistics which reveal 127,000 children across England face being homeless at New Year.

Former Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, has declared a "national emergency" and demanded urgent action to alleviate the housing crisis to ensure "every child has the security of a warm home."

The figures collated from over 300 local authorities, uncovered by Liberal Democrat freedom of information requests, also reveal there are a staggering 46,964 homes that have been empty for 5 years or more while there are 313,792 long-term empty homes [defined as over 6-months] across the country.

Leeds has 170 homes empty for 10 years or more, 375 empty for 5 years or more and a total of 3263 currently considered to be long-term empty.

However, the Liberal Democrat investigation revealed that only 21 councils - fewer than 1 in 10 councils - across the country have made use of Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMO) in the past five years. These are the powers used by local authorities to take over properties that have been empty for at least six months¹. Leeds Council has not used EMOS despite having 3263 long-term empty homes.

As part of the party’s plan to alleviate the housing crisis, the Liberal Democrats are calling for legislation to allow local authorities to increase council tax by up to 500% where properties are being left vacant long-term. The revenues would then be used to build new homes for the community or to invest in local services.

Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron said: “It is impossible to imagine how hard it is, especially at this time of year, for the tens of thousands of children struggling to get by without somewhere to call home. "This housing crisis is a national emergency. Tory Ministers should hang their heads in shame. Urgent action is needed now to ensure every Child has the security of a warm home."

Dan Walker, Liberal Democrat candidate for Leeds West, said:

“Communities up and down the country, including our own, are being torn apart because affluent owners are treating these properties as financial assets.

“Instead, these homes could be turned into affordable places to live for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

“People deserve better. That's why Liberal Democrats are demanding councils are given the powers and resources we set out in our manifesto to bring empty homes back into use."

  1. EDMO powers only apply to England Wales and do not apply in Scotland.


A breakdown by council of the Liberal Democrat investigation can be found here.

Recent Government statistics - Statutory Homelessness, April to June (Q2) 2019 : England - can be found here.

  • The number of households assessed by Local Authorities as either homeless or threatened with homelessness has increased by 11.4% from April to June 2018 to 68,170 this quarter.
  • 127,370 children were stuck in temporary accommodation between April and June - the most since spring 2006
  • 30,670 households, or 45.0%, were identified as having one or more support needs. The most common support need was a history of mental health problems, accounting for 14,950 households or 21.9% of households owed a duty.

According to Shelter, 280,000 people will be homeless in England on Christmas Day – about one in every 200 of the total population. That stands at an increase of 23,000 since 2016. The annual report can be found here.

The Liberal Democrats 2019 manifesto plans to tackle the housing crisis included:

  • Build at least 100,000 homes for social rent each year and ensure that total housebuilding increases to 300,000 each year.
  • Help finance the large increase in the building of social homes with investment from our £130 billion capital infrastructure budget.
  • Build new houses to zero-carbon standards and cut fuel bills through a ten-year programme to reduce energy consumption from all the UK’s buildings.
  • Devolve full control of Right to Buy to local councils.

To support people to find and keep homes of their own:

  • Help people who cannot afford a deposit by introducing a new Rent to Own model for social housing where rent payments give tenants an increasing stake in the property, owning it outright after 30 years.
  • Allow local authorities to increase council tax by up to 500 per cent where homes are being bought as second homes with a stamp duty surcharge on overseas residents purchasing such properties.

To reform the private rental sector:

  • Help young people into the rental market by establishing a new Help to Rent scheme to provide government-backed tenancy deposit loans for all first-time renters under 30.
  • Promote longer tenancies of three years or more with an inflation-linked annual rent increase built in, to give tenants security and limit rent hikes.
  • Improve protections against rogue landlords through mandatory licensing.

To improve social renting:

  • Set clearer standards for homes that are socially rented.
  • Require complaints to be dealt with in a timely manner.
  • Proactively enforce the regulations that are intended to protect social renters.
  • Fully recognise tenant panels so that renters have a voice in landlord governance.