22,000 Homes Are Sitting Empty In London

22,000 Homes Are Sitting Empty In London
Image: Shutterstock

Over 22,000 homes sat vacant in London in 2018, according to new research.

The study from Admiral combined government figures with freedom of information requests to local councils, to reveal that 22,481 homes in the capital were left empty for six months or more.

The worst 'borough' (although not technically a borough) for this was the City. Here, around 37.8 in 1,000 homes currently sit empty. The average house price in the City is en eye-watering £874,405.  

Southwark is second worst for empty houses, with 3.3 in 1,000. At the other end of the scale, the borough of Wandsworth has 1.2 empty houses per 1,000.

Maybe more surprisingly is where empty houses are collectively worth the most money. That's in the borough of Barnet, where homes worth more than £770,000,000 have been left vacated for 2-4 years. (Then again the crumbling mansions of Bishop's Avenue are partly in Barnet, so perhaps this stat figures after all.)

The overall average value of houses left vacant in London, says Admiral, is £12.2 billion.

A heat map of empty homes across London boroughs. Click to enlarge

WHY are all these properties left empty, when there're such a fierce demand for housing? Says an Admiral spokesperson: "It is vastly explained by what the authority calls 'buy-to-leave'... homes are being bought up as investments, often from abroad, and not being used to provide housing for people."

What's the mayor doing about it?

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The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, voiced concerns about buy-to-leave properties, even before he took office in 2016. His office claims that the number of empty homes in London are in fact almost at their lowest level since the 1970s, but that the mayor believes no home should be left empty.

What's Khan actually done about the empty housing crisis? As part of his London Housing Strategy, councils have been urged to use their powers to levy recently increased council tax premium on empty homes. Khan's Draft London Plan also requires boroughs to reduce the number of vacant and under-occupied dwellings.

Research by the mayor's office on overseas investment in London’s housing market, led to findings that over half of sales to overseas buyers were for properties costing between £200,000 and £500,000. As a result, he has implemented a voluntary 'first dibs' approach, meaning that some leading homebuilders offer new homes up to £350,000 to Londoners who live or work in the capital for the first month of marketing, and to UK buyers for three months, before overseas marketing takes place.

Last Updated 01 July 2019