Star comment: Frustrating to see empty homes across the region

Travel about these days and you will probably be struck by how many new houses are being built everywhere.

Turn your back for a second, it seems, and the landscape is being changed.

There is, we have been told, a housing shortage which needs to be addressed. Yet as you travel around you may also be struck being something else – the number of empty properties.

These empty properties are not just houses, but other buildings like closed pubs and shops which, with a bit of imagination and a significant amount of investment, could be converted into accommodation where planning policies allow.

It is shocking that while there is a housing shortage, people are crying out to find a way to get on the housing ladder, and there is a continuing problem of homelessness, so many homes are left empty.

Another dimension is less talked about, of homes which are not empty but are hardly used, and are much bigger than those living there actually need.

Overcrowding is undesirable, but in modern times we also have the phenomenon of "undercrowding" when people rattle around in large properties either through choice, or because there are no suitable smaller properties available to give them the opportunity to downsize.

Given that there is such demand for homes, it is frustrating to see empty homes across the region.

Compelling home owners to bring these properties into use is attractive. But this alone cannot solve the housing crisis we face as a country.

The population is growing, and the fact is that more homes are needed, which puts pressure on the environment and our cherished green spaces which, once gone, are gone forever.

Resolving this dilemma remains a hugely challenging balancing act, and as well as building more we need to make sure we make best use of the housing stock we already have.

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