The causes of the national problem
17. The causes of empty homes in areas with healthy housing markets
were described by the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham:
- "Property inherited - beneficiary lacks skills/knowledge
to manage property.
- Complex probate cases, including difficulties tracing beneficiaries.
- Purchased vacant as investment-owner can make a profit without
refurbishing and/or letting due to escalating prices.
- Speculative purchase by owner who lacks funds to redevelop
and/or skills knowledge to manage.
- Abandonment, sometimes due to age or ill-health.
- Ignorance of options available including grants and private
- In the case of part-occupied premises, some landlords deliberately
fail to replace tenants and allow the property to fall into a
state of disrepair in order to get rid of regulated tenants paying
- No financial penalty for keeping property empty.
- Empty property above shops-planning restriction, unsuitable
means of access, reluctant freeholders, sometimes low demand.
- Costs of repair and refurbishment prohibitively expensive
to many owners who have difficulty raising loans."
Southampton City Council has found that the age and condition
of the property can also be a cause:
"The underlying nature of Southampton's private housing
stock of some 65,000 dwellings-where around 50 per cent were built
before 1945 and one in five dwellings are either unfit or require
essential repair-seems in part to be the cause."
18. External factors can also play a part. Demand for housing
falls dramatically with the arrival of anti-social neighbours,
"You can often trace two or three individual households who
can blight a whole neighbourhood by their activities."
This is true across the country. The evidence which we have received
indicates that this problem is more concentrated and more devastating
in areas with failing housing markets.
We have therefore dealt with the problem of anti-social behaviour
in the section of the report on failing markets.