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Official figures show that hundreds of houses and flats on the Isle of Wight have been standing empty for at least half a year. The charity, Empty Homes Agency, said it was concerned official statistics might underestimate the scale of the problem.

Hundreds of houses and flats on the Isle of Wight have been standing empty for at least half a year, official figures have shown.

The council reported 679 long-term vacant homes in October last year, which is roughly the same as the 2016 figure. The data was published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, and is based on council tax records.

Improvements on the Island

Pressure on the government to act on empty homes has been mounting in recent years, as the UK’s housing shortage has led to a decline in home ownership and rising house prices.

If an area has a significant number of empty homes it is more likely to see an increase in vandalism, the collapse of local businesses, and experience a sense of neglect, according to research by the House of Commons Library.

The number of empty homes on the Isle of Wight has been falling in the last few years, down 11% since 2014.

Privately owned empty homes

The latest figures show that the vast majority of empty properties were privately owned. But some of those left vacant were homes for social or affordable rent managed by the housing associations.

On the Isle of Wight, there were 28 empty homes owned by housing associations, a figure which includes those that had been empty for less than six months.

More can be done towards additional housing supply 

The Empty Homes Agency, a charity which campaigns for empty properties to be brought back into use. Their 2018 report found,

“Our research found that local authorities with higher levels of long-term empty homes tend to have lower house prices and more households on lower incomes than the rest of England.

“The government has talked of the need to build 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s. We believe more could be done to generate that additional housing supply through homes that have sat empty over the long-term.”

Scale of the problem underestimated

The charity also said it was concerned that the official statistics might underestimate the scale of the problem.

If a home is unoccupied, its owner will generally still have to pay council tax. Until 2013, owners of homes which had been empty for up to 12 months were automatically exempt if the property was undergoing major building work, but councils are now entitled to set their own discount and may still ask owners to pay the full rate.

On the Isle of Wight, the council voted last year (Jan 2017) to remove the empty home discount, creating extra income for the council budget.

There is a 50% discount for properties empty and unoccupied for two years or more.

Source: On the Wight

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