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2021 Census Data Shows the Number of Unoccupied Homes in England

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Hundreds of thousands of homes across England stand empty despite growing numbers of homelessness across the country.

To examine the percentage of unoccupied homes in England, we have used data from sources like the Census as well as the Office for National Statistics. With this information, we have been able to calculate the percentage of unoccupied homes in Local Authorities across England.

To do this, we identified the number of households that were occupied by a minimum of one usual resident, and the total number of dwellings within a Local Authority. We determined the difference between these two pieces of data and divided it by the total number of properties to get an overall percentage of unoccupied homes.

In particular, we have taken an interest in the 10 Local Authorities (LAs) with the highest percentage of unoccupied homes and the 10 with the lowest percentage. Doing so has allowed us to review the difference between these areas and determine why this may be the case.

In the following review, we will analyse the data surrounding unoccupied homes in England and the reasons why this data may appear the way it does.

The 10 Local Authorities in England with the Highest Percentage of Unoccupied Homes

In England, there are a range of local authorities of varying sizes and with different numbers of occupants and properties. Below are the 10 Local Authorities with the highest percentage of unoccupied dwellings in the country, and the percentage of homes that are regularly unoccupied:

  1. City of London – 30.98%
  2. Westminster – 25.01%
  3. Kensington and Chelsea – 24.18%
  4. South Hams – 15.28%
  5. North Norfolk – 15.13%
  6. South Lakeland – 14.97%
  7. Scarborough – 14.53%
  8. Richmondshire – 13.77%
  9. King’s Lynn and West Norfolk – 13.32%
  10. Camden – 12.93%

Unsurprisingly, the small area of City of London is at the top of this list with a huge 30.98% of unoccupied homes, totalling at roughly 2,199 properties out of the 7,099 total dwellings in the area.

This LA is followed by Westminster, with a slightly smaller 25.01%. It’s important to note that, despite the percentage of unoccupied homes being significantly smaller in Westminster, this does not mean that there are less unoccupied homes. In fact, out of a total population of 126,422 people, there are 31,622 unoccupied homes in Westminster.

It should also be observed that the percentage of unoccupied homes in these LAs more than doubles between 10th place Camden, at 12.93%, and the City of London, at 30.98%. Out of the 308 Local Authorities that we studied, only the top ten saw a jump like this, with the other England LAs ranging between an inoccupation percentage of 0.53% and 11.64%.

The 10 Local Authorities in England with the Lowest Percentage of Unoccupied Homes

In contrast, the Local authorities with the lowest percentage of unoccupied homes in England all range from 0.53% to 1.53%. They were:

  1. Hounslow – 0.53%
  2. North East Derbyshire – 0.91%
  3. Harborough – 0.97%
  4. Wokingham – 1.11%
  5. Basingstoke and Deane – 1.19%
  6. Peterborough – 1.22%
  7. Huntingdonshire – 1.29%
  8. Bromsgrove -1.45%
  9. West Northamptonshire – 1.47%
  10. Redbridge – 1.53%

Across England, the Local Authorities with the lowest percentage of unoccupied homes were Hounslow, North East Derbyshire, and Harborough, with percentages all under 1%.

It could be suggested that these figures are due to the smaller number of dwellings in these areas, for example Harborough has 40,797 compared to places like Kensington and Chelsea, which has 88,237 total properties. However, Hounslow has the smallest percentage of unoccupied dwellings in England yet has a massive 103,544 properties in total. This leaves only 544 unoccupied dwellings in the area.

Additionally, areas like West Northamptonshire have an even bigger number of properties, with 175,179 yet only 2,579, or 1.47%, unoccupied.

Possible Reasons for England’s Unoccupied Home Percentages

Throughout England, there are over 1 million unoccupied homes with an average 4.89% unoccupancy in each Local Authority. When compared to the thousands of people who are considered homeless and have to sleep in shelters or on the streets, this figure is shocking.

But, why are the number of unoccupied homes so high in some areas and low in others?

As discussed above, it’s clear that the number of properties in an area does not necessarily correlate with the percentage of unoccupied dwellings. This is evident in the comparison between Hounslow, with the smallest number of unoccupied homes and 103,544 properties, and the City of London, which has the highest percentage of unoccupied homes and only 7,099 dwellings.

When considering why this is the case, we investigated data regarding the number of rented properties and the number of owned properties in the areas. During this investigation, we found that the LAs with the highest percentages of unoccupied homes also have the highest percentage of rented occupiers.

This is true for Westminster, with 25.01% unoccupied dwellings and 85% rented properties out of those that are occupied. This takes into account both the 53,791 privately rented properties and 2,7127 social rented properties out of Westminster’s 94,800 households with usual residents.

This pattern is also repeated in Kensington and Chelsea with 79% rented occupiers, the City of London with 77%, and Camden with 76%.

Further research revealed that the average rent for properties in London is £1,846 per month, in comparison to the average rent across the UK of £1,103 per month. Rent prices have been rising over the past few years, but London and its surrounding areas are particularly pricy.

It is possible that, with the addition of COVID-19 and the increase of people working from home, alongside rising rent prices in areas like London, that people are choosing to move away from these areas, leaving more homes unoccupied in the process.

We must also consider the second homes that are owned but not regularly occupied. The Covid pandemic saw a huge boom in people buying second homes, whether that be due to the Stamp Duty Holiday or the change in lifestyle. With so many properties being removed from the market but not regularly occupied, this leaves cause for concern for both the property market and the homeless community.

We also cannot forget the many properties left derelict, which are uninhabitable and can also be included in the unoccupied properties figures. These would take thousands of pounds to renovate in order to be made available to buyers or the homeless, but funding in this regard is often lacking.

If you’d like to get on the property ladder, the team at Bird & Co can help. Their expert conveyancing team are available to discuss your options, so be sure to get in contact with the team for more information.

Data Sources

Methodology

Throughout this article, we have made use of data collected by the 2021 Census and the ONS.

We used the 2021 Census data to find the total number of households with at least one usual resident in each Local Authority. The ONS data was used to identify the total number of dwellings per area, and both statistics were used to calculate the percentage of unoccupied homes.

Please be aware that the dwelling data provided by the ONS, which tells us the total dwellings owned and rented, is subject to a level of variability; these figures are an estimate.

Although this data was sourced via reputable sources, its interpretations are that of the Bird & Co researchers.