Lettings agency My Property Box is calling on the region’s councils to tackle the growing problem of long-term empty homes.
Latest figures reveal the number of mostly privately-owned homes that stand empty for more than six months has increased by 9 percent across the Tees Valley, 2 percent in County Durham and 4 percent in Tyne and Wear. In North Yorkshire the rate has fallen by 1 percent.
With rising numbers of people on housing waiting lists or living in temporary accommodation, the total number of long-term empty homes in the North East and North Yorkshire rose from 20,992 in 2018 to 22,143 in 2019, according to government data.
Ben Quaintrell, the founder and managing director of Darlington-based My Property Box, is urging councils to take advantage of extra government powers and ensure more properties are turned back into homes.
He was speaking after North Tyneside Council became the latest local authority to increase its council tax charges on empty homes. From this April it will double the charge on homes unoccupied for more than two years, while properties empty for more than five years face a 200 percent premium and those empty for more than a decade will attract a 300 percent premium.
According to official figures, the areas within the Tees Valley to experience the biggest increases are Stockton, 938 to 1,170 properties (+25 percent), Middlesbrough, 1,016 to 1,163 (+14 percent) and Darlington 592 to 651 (+10 percent).
The only authority to buck the trend was Redcar & Cleveland, where long-term empty homes fell from 865 to 833 (-4 percent). The overall number in the Tees Valley in 2019 was 4,596 (+9 percent).
In the Durham County Council area, the number rose from 4,130 to 4,209 (+2 percent) over the 12-month period. Across Tyne and Wear the figure rose from 6,763 to 7,048 (+4 percent) – with Gateshead (+12 percent) and Sunderland (+10 percent) seeing the biggest rises.
In North Yorkshire the overall number of long-term empty properties fell from 4,013 to 3,989 (-1 percent). Richmondshire experienced a 20 percent decrease from 426 to 341 whilst Hambleton recorded a 5 percent increase from 457 to 481.
Ben Quaintrell said that local authorities must make a concerted effort to bring more homes back into use.
He said: “It’s amazing when you realise just how many homes are classed as being long-term unoccupied when this country is struggling to build sufficient social and low-cost housing to meet the huge demand.
“Many of these properties are situated in more deprived areas and the longer they remain empty, the greater the chance is that they will fall into a serious state of disrepair. This in turn can have a serious effect on the local area, deflating house values and attracting anti-social behaviour.
“Many of these homes could easily be brought back into use whilst providing an annual rental income for the owners. Bringing extra properties onto the private rental market could go a long way to easing the national housing crisis.”