Leeds BSFeb 24 2023

Over 676,000 empty homes ‘a national disgrace’, says lender

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Over 676,000 empty homes ‘a national disgrace’, says lender
The UK is now back at the level of empty homes last seen in 2012 [Ian Forsyth/Bloomberg]
ByRuby Hinchliffe

A mortgage lender has labelled the UK’s growing number of empty homes, of which there are more than half a million (676,452), “a national disgrace”.

Leeds Building Society’s mortgage distribution director, Martese Carton, has said there is a growing sense that these empty properties could provide some of the solutions to the housing crisis the country now faces.

“The lack of housing supply has been a major factor in the rapid house price increases we have seen in the UK over the past few years,” said Carton.

“The UK government set itself a target of building 300,000 new homes a year, but the last time this level of annual house building was achieved was 1977.”

Regional split of empty properties in 2022


Current number of empty properties 

(% increase/decrease from 2021 in brackets)

North West

101,778 (+1.3%)

South East

99,829 (+3.8%)


89,508 (+2.0%) 


75,283 (+3.2%)

West Midlands

72,048 (+4.2%)


69,990 (+5.6%)  

South West

66,839 (+7.8%)

East Midlands

59,581 (+4.0%)

North East

41,596 (+1.7%)

Total for England

676,452 (+3.6%)

Source: Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities 

The cost of homeownership in the UK has been driven up by uninterrupted house price growth, compounded by a lack of new housing relative to demand, over many years.

This means that now, full-time employees could typically expect to spend around 9.1 times their workplace-based annual earnings on purchasing a home, versus 3.5 times their salary back in 1997, according to the Office for National Statistics.

While house price growth has slowed in recent months along with a significant dip in house sales, many in the industry believe true change will be made through housing policy.

Last month, secretary of state for levelling up Michael Gove told The Sunday Times he wanted to scrap leasehold rules in an effort to reduce the fees charged by building agents to flat owners.

But planning reforms - what many have said is the key to fixing the UK’s housing supply and the cost of homeownership - have continued to be kicked down the road.

Last November, Leeds Building Society published a public policy paper looking at how the government could tackle the UK’s homeownership crisis. 

Part of the report looked at how the country could make use of its existing housing stock. 

“There is little doubt that the refurbishment and repurposing of old, or empty properties, makes great financial, economic, and social sense as it could provide affordable homes for hundreds of thousands of people,” said Carton.

“Although the current number of empty properties is a national disgrace, there is a growing sense that these empty properties could provide some of the solutions to the housing crisis the country faces. 

“We also know that for many people, empty properties can be a blight on local communities.”

In August last year, Leeds Building Society said it would no longer offer mortgages for second homes, saying they simply “lie empty” and are not contributing to the economy at a time when housing stock is running critically low.