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Shelter launch 10-city plan to convert empty homes to social rent homes

July 3, 2024

‘Turning empty homes into social rent spaces is better for the environment’

Launched in April, Housing and Homelessness Charity Shelter have put forward a bold and ambitious proposal to bring large numbers of empty homes back into use as social rent homes.

The charity is urging the government to build 90,000 new social rent homes per year across England.

According to a report by Shelter, converting an empty home takes around 1/3 of the time compared to building from scratch taking around 8 months, instead of 2-5 years to build.

The charity also claims that turning empty homes into social rent homes is better for the environment, cutting carbon emissions by 50-75% per unit on average.

Shelter has listed 10 key recommendations to make their plan a reality.

The recommendations include increasing council tax premiums for empty properties and exempting sellers of long-term empty homes from a proportion of Capital Gains Tax if selling to a council, housing association.

Some of the other recommendations include:

  • Invest £1.25bn grant in a long-term empty homes programme to bring suitable empty homes back into use in the target 10 cities. Back this with a clear strategy to convert them into social rent homes and include potential to expand funding beyond this geography once proof of concept is established.

  • Ringfence empty and second home Council Tax premiums for LEH acquisition and conversion.

  • Support for local authorities and social landlords to boost capacity – with resource funding to expand councils’ empty homes teams; knowledge sharing roadshows between councils already taking action and those that want to; and a central compulsory purchase and empty homes ‘flying squad’ to support ambitious local authorities across the country.

  • Tighten the definition of the long-term empty home category to ensure empty homes that are meaningfully empty but misclassified as second homes are correctly classified. Put the onus on the owner to prove regular use.

The report concludes that converting empty homes is one piece of the puzzle to solve the housing crisis.

The report says: “We need a national suite of mechanisms to urgently ramp up the delivery of social rent homes to 90k per year. This is how we will end the housing emergency.

“Empty home acquisition and conversion is a fast, cost-effective, and greener way for the next government to quickly increase the delivery of social rent homes early in its term and reduce the number of empty homes.

“The more central government puts in to address empty homes, the more social rent homes we will get out.”

The full report can be read here, or downloaded from our information library.