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10 Jun 24

An investigation by Sky News and a housing campaigner have revealed that there are some 33,993 vacant council properties in England alone, the highest number since 2009.

They include several residences that have been sealed off on an estate in Lambeth, south London, for more than two decades and 144 flats in a boarded-up tower block in the bordering borough of Southwark that has been empty since 2015. 

Kwajo Tweneboa, the campaigner working with Sky, has tweeted the top 10 councils that have the most empty publicly-owned homes. Landlord Today has identified the political parties that control the councils in question.

Melton – 1,810; (Independent and Labour coalition)

Southwark – 1,588; (Labour)

Ealing – 1,183; (Labour)

Sheffield – 946; (Labour largest party, no overall majority)

Lambeth – 726; (Labour)

Newham – 688; (Labour)

Gateshead – 618; (Labour)

Leeds – 589; (Labour)

Southampton – 577; (Labour)

Nottingham – 511. (Labour)

Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, tweeted in response: “Appalling. And to think these local authorities are in charge of regulating private rented homes when they literally cannot get their own houses in order.”

Tweneboa told Sky News: “You’ve got people sleeping on the streets. You’ve got people who are sleeping in garages and storage containers. Yet we’ve got thousands of homes sat empty, council homes up and down the country, which aren’t being used.

“It makes no sense whatsoever. It’s a complete dereliction of duty and failure to care for those that need it most.”

The Local Government Association blames a shortage of funding for councils and a spokesperson told Sky News that in many cases “the council doesn’t have the money in place to be able to refurbish them and bring them back into use as council homes”.

And Lambeth council told Sky: “Lambeth is committed to bringing empty homes back into use as quickly as possible. The majority of our empty properties have been vacant for less than six months.”

You can see the full Sky story and video interviews here.

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