This week we witnessed the eviction of several rough-sleepers from a site in the centre of Bournemouth while a great many homes have been sitting empty for years.
Research by the Liberal Democrats has revealed the extent of this problem nationally.
In Bournemouth alone we discovered that in October 2017 there were 843 unoccupied, unfurnished properties which had stood emtpy for six months or more. Of these, 151 had been empty from 2 to 5 years, 63 had been empty for 5 to 10 years and 35 had stood idle for more than ten years!
Nationally the figures, uncovered through Freedom of Information requests, show that there are 214.708 homes across the country that have been empty for six months or more. Of these, nearly 100,000 had been empty for two years or more, with over 10.000 standing empty for more than ten years!
Local authorities are able to make use of Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMO), to take over properties that have been empty for at least two years. In Bournemouth, however, this power has not been used at all, (this is despite the fact that roughly 4,000 Bournemouth people are sitting without hope on the housing waiting list).
The research also showed that only 19 of the 248 councils in England and Wales that responded (the powers do not apply in Scotland) had used an EDMO in the past five years. Of these only six had used one in the past year.
Jon Nicholas, Parliamentary spokesman for Bournemouth East, said:
“At a time when the homelessness crisis is worsening and more and more people are sleeping out in the cold on our streets, it is a scandal that so many homes locally are sitting empty.
“These homes could be turned into affordable places to live for those that need it across Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch.
“The Government needs to urgently review the current system which is clearly not working and our local authorities need to be given the powers and resources to bring empty homes back into use."