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Housing

This tool will tell you how many empty homes there are in your area

‘There just aren’t enough homes. And that’s because we don’t allow enough to be built.’

A new tool will show you exactly how many empty homes there are in your area, giving a glimpse into the shortage of housing in England.

The Housing England website allows you to see how your local authority, or region, measures up for vacant homes on a short- and long-term basis.

Created by Tom Forth, head of data at Leeds data organisation Open Innovations, the tool can tell you how your local area compares to the national average.

For instance, the Walsall constituency of Eddie Jones, the minister responsible for rough sleeping, has fewer empty homes than the national average.

The data for homelessness minister Eddie Hughes’ constituency. Data: Open England

Latest government figures show there are nearly 250,000 homes in England which have been empty for more than six months – but many of those need fixing up before they can be lived in.

And as those homes sit empty, 96,060 households are living in temporary accommodation in England.

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But a low number of empty homes isn’t necessarily a good thing, Forth argued.

“I’ve always known that filling empty homes is an important part of reducing the worst effects of the housing crisis,” he told The Big Issue.

“But over the past decade, even in north England, we’ve hit the limits of that. There just aren’t enough homes. And that’s because we don’t allow enough to be built.”

The tool also shows how the proportion of empty homes in your area has changed. Image: Housing England

The Housing England tool points out that the percentage of empty homes in England is well below that of countries such as Finland, France, and the Netherlands.

While on average 2.7 per cent of homes in England are empty, the figure is 10 per cent in Finland, 8 per cent in France, and 4 per cent in the Netherlands.

Everywhere in England currently has too few homes, Forth said.

“I’d probably urge people not to get too distracted by ‘affordable’ housing figures, and definitely don’t believe most of the ‘greedy developer’ type excuses for building fewer homes. We need more homes, of all types, quickly.”

However, simply building more homes will not be a fix everywhere.

“Fully market housing will not work for London,” Forth said. “The city is too attractive, the economy is too strong, there must be social housing to give people the ability to have families and stay in the city.”

To see how your local area compares, go to open-innovations.org/projects/housingengland/

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