Almost 25,000 homes empty in the Black Country and parts of Staffordshire, figures suggest
Almost 25,000 homes in the Black Country and parts of Staffordshire have been left empty as fears mount over owning a property becoming unattainable, figures show.
Latest census figures – dating up to March 2021 – revealed 24,680 were left vacant, with the situation worse than when the previous census was undertaken back in 2011.
But overall the region had the lowest number of unoccupied dwellings coming in at just under five per cent, whilst London had the highest level coming in at eight per cent.
The national picture, however, has led to concerns over people being able to get started on the property ladder, with calls for more houses to be built to ensure people can have their own home.
Data showed there were 7,430 empty properties in Wolverhampton, 3,245 in Dudley, 5,000 in Walsall, 4,570 in Sandwell, 2,610 in Stafford and 1,825 in South Staffordshire.
Think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research said home shortages have increased rents and made home ownership unattainable. It urged the building of more houses to "ensure everyone has access to a secure, warm and affordable home".
Luke Murphy, associate director for energy, climate, housing and infrastructure at IPPR, said: "The shortage of homes is putting pressure on rents and pushing home ownership out of reach for many, so it's concerning that the number of unoccupied homes rose in England and Wales over the past decade.
"Because the census took place during the pandemic, that may have contributed to the increase, but the rise means the Government should look again at policies to curb or control holiday homes, short-term lets, and empty homes.
"However, we mustn't pretend this will solve the housing crisis. We must build millions more homes, including affordable housing, if we're to ensure everyone has access to a secure, warm, and affordable home."
In England, the proportion of unoccupied dwellings has soared during the last decade, with more than one million empty homes littered across the country.
The census took place during the coronavirus pandemic, and the ONS expressed caution that some unoccupied dwelling figures may be inflated due to people living with parents, overseas residents returning home, and other lockdown-related restrictions such as travel.
Polly Neate, chief executive of housing and homelessness charity Shelter, said filling every empty property would not solve the shortage of affordable homes.
"If we can fill empty homes we should, but we will never solve the housing emergency without building a new generation of good quality social homes that local people can afford to live in," Ms Neate added.
A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said local councils should be using existing powers to convert empty properties into homes.
They added: “They can increase council tax by up to 300 per cent on long-term empty properties, take over empty homes by Compulsory Purchase Orders and Empty Dwelling Management Orders, and convert commercial buildings to residential without the need for a full planning application.
“We have delivered over 2.2 million homes since 2010 and reduced the number of long-term empty homes by more than 30,000 over the same period. We are investing £11.5bn to deliver tens of thousands more affordable homes across the country.”