The campaigners concluded that the statistics showed a failure to meet local needs by building lucrative homes that prioritise investors rather than working Londoners.
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Discussions with council empty homes officers also uncovered fears that more homes could be left empty in the future due to the pandemic’s impact on the housing market and working lives with workers moving out of city centres.
AEH’s report called for tighter regulation of AirBNBs and short-term lets to boost the number of homes available for permanent residence. In Southwark, where one in 24 homes are left empty, more than 3,600 empty homes were reported in 2020 – London’s biggest increase, up from 500 the previous year. However, AEH warned many of the homes were previously considered furnished lets but were left empty during the pandemic and were reclassified as second homes in the government’s council tax database.
A tax on vacant homes, citing an initiative used in Vancouver, was also suggested as a solution and said retrofitting rather than demolishing council homes is a vital step towards tackling the climate crisis.
Bringing empty homes back into use can also give councils an option to avoid housing people in temporary accommodation – around 125,000 homes stood vacant long-term across London while 60,000 families are living in temporary accommodation.
“This jars when communities can see hundreds of new homes being built on their doorstep,” said Manny Hothi, chief executive of charity Trust for London. “New homes need to be just that: homes for people to live in. By bringing vacant and under-used property back into use, and making it more costly to leave new homes empty, we can help house all Londoners and tackle the housing crisis.”
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan announced a £3bn affordable homes programme last month, promising to deliver almost 30,000 homes over the next five years. Almost 60 per cent of all homes built will be for social rent – the most affordable category of housing.
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“All Londoners deserve a safe, secure home with enough space to live comfortably, and private outside space to enjoy fresh air,” said Khan, announcing the investment. “I want to deliver a new generation of genuinely affordable housing in London that sets the standard nationally when it comes to excellent design, safety and sustainability.”
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