Shocking figures just released expose the scale of the empty homes scandal in Southwark. Six thousand homes in Southwark lie empty, which is more than neighbouring Lambeth, Lewisham and Tower Hamlets combined. The figures have gone up by around a thousand every year for the last three years, and the trend is expected to continue. With three times the average number of vacant properties in London, Southwark has been dubbed the ‘Empty Homes capital of London.’
Several reasons have been given for the record number. Scandalously one in four of all new homes built in Southwark over recent years have been sold abroad – this should not be legal or allowed. Many new developments are being ‘Bought to Leave.’ One in seven of the empty homes are owned by the Council, who take on average 107 days to fill, while neighbouring Tower Hamlets manage to do so in 23. This clearly isn’t good enough, when there are over 10,000 families and individuals on the council house waiting list. Owners of empty properties are often exempt from council tax.
When we are in the grip of a housing crisis and a visible increase of homeless people on the streets, no-one can dispute that something has gone very wrong with Southwark’s housing policy with six thousand empty homes. That these are by far and away the worst figures in the city is appalling.
The Southwark Council isn’t powerless. It owns one in seven of Southwark’s empty homes and they take months to turn around empty property. If a family moved out of a council house today, the likelihood is that the home would remain empty until July. This isn’t good enough.
Southwark Labour and even their leader are very cosy with developers partaking in gifts, corporate entertainment and the like. We need mixed communities, with empty houses being taxed additionally to get them available again as soon as possible.