Property Gold: The empty homes scandal – who’s the fool?
Last updated Jul 23, 2021

Property Gold is a monthly column written by independent bespoke property consultant, Alex Goldstein. With more than 17 years’ experience, Alex helps his clients to buy and sell residential property in some of the most desirable locations in Yorkshire and beyond. In this month’s column, Alex takes a look at where things have gone wrong to leave the UK with so many empty homes. 

There are 648,114 empty homes – let that sink in for a moment.

That is the number the government published in its report from October last year, on the number of uninhabited homes in the UK. Of this, 225,845 were classed as long-term vacant (empty for longer than six months).

The numbers speak for themselves. However, despite this, why are we continuing to build these mass-volume new-build developments? Why do governments and the media continually report that we aren’t building enough houses to meet demand and there is a housing crisis? Why are youngsters struggling to get on the housing ladder?

If you want my opinion, it all boils down to money, plus governments and councils meddling in a world they just don’t understand, nor are qualified to deal with. Their actions over the past 20+ years have had far-reaching implications for us all and we are now on the brink of yet another scandal to hit the new-build property sector and national economy. Like the tragic events at Grenfell Tower just over four years ago and the subsequent cladding scandal, there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight for ridding ourselves of this greenfield-sucking parasite.

As an example, Harrogate Borough Council didn’t have a Local Plan in place for several years. This resulted in the big PLC developers having an absolute field day, with limited barriers to their proposals. However, these key players can walk away at any point, with limited accountability for the hand they have had in altering the face of the district and UK forever.

Overloaded schools, GP surgeries, roads and infrastructure are problems we all now have to endure, through no fault of our own. In Harrogate district in the same 2020 count, there were 2,208 empty properties. Yet sizeable new-build schemes dotted throughout the area are still going ahead, with more still to come.

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Every new-build home sold adds more financial fuel to the fire, and we will simply continue going around in circles until all our green space is gone – and then what?

We are already seeing that empty homes bring about ghost blocks and areas, attracting crime, hitting local house prices and the economy. My concern is that a housing bubble is being created once more. The powers running the country have opened a Pandora’s Box and I don’t believe they know how to close the lid.

So who are the fools in all of this? The government, councils, PLC developers, the new home buyers, or us  for not taking a stand when it was needed?

If you have any comments or questions for Alex, please feel free to contact him on [email protected]

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