Number of empty homes in Norwich almost doubles in 18 months

Bury Street Golden Triangle, Norwich. Photo : Steve Adams

Bury Street Golden Triangle, Norwich. Photo : Steve Adams - Credit: Steve Adams

New developments in Norwich could be behind a major spike in the number of long-term empty homes in the city.

Gloucester Street in Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Gloucester Street in Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

According to government figures and data released under the Freedom of Information Act, in October 2017 there were 335 long-term empty homes - ones which have been unoccupied for at least six months - in Norwich.

In October last year, the figure had risen to 462, marking a year-on-year rise of 40pc - but as of May 12 this year it had risen again to 647.

Norwich City Council said the figures fluctuate, and could be influenced by several factors, such as new builds and conversions of office blocks into homes.

If newly-built properties aren't occupied within six months, they join the list of long-term empty properties.

An empty house in Northumberland Street, Norwich, pictured in 2017. Pic: Dan Grimmer

An empty house in Northumberland Street, Norwich, pictured in 2017. Pic: Dan Grimmer - Credit: Archant

A spokesperson said: "Empty property figures fluctuate and increases can be due to many different reasons, such as developers converting properties into flats, which bring a number of properties onto the market at once.

"In regards to private sector housing it is up to the owner/developer/landlord to market and fill the property.

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"We discourage long-term empty properties in the private sector by charging full council tax on empty properties, adding a 100pc premium for those left empty for two years or more."

With homelessness rising around the country - and in Norfolk - pressure has mounted on councils and the government to tackle the thousands of homes sitting empty around the country.

Admiral Insurance this week estimated there were roughly 278,000 vacant homes around the country, sitting at a value of at least £2.2bn.

According to the city council's draft statement of accounts for the year up to March 31, 2019, 45 empty homes were brought back into use in 2017/18, above the annual target of 20.

In 2018/19, though, that figure fell to just one.

While local authorities were previously given a cash pot to reduce the number of empty homes, that funding has been pulled.

Instead, last spring, the government introduced laws to allow councils to charge double the rate of council tax on empty homes.

Demand for new-builds still high

Though the level of development may have, in part, led to more empty homes, demand for new-builds remains healthy in Norwich.

According to Land Registry data, the number of new-build properties bought in Norwich from January to May rose from 76 in 2018 to 102 this year.

And when looking at flats and maisonettes alone - both new-build and otherwise - the number of sales rose very slightly from 209 in the first five months of last year, up to 211 this year.

That figure bucks a national trend, with a decline in the number of people buying flats around the country overall late last year.

But sales of all properties in Norwich fell, from 709 in January to May last year to 641 in the same period this year.

That can be seen in sales of detached, semi-detached and terraced properties, where the number of sales between January and May 2018 fell from 452 to 392 this year.