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Property: Rural Areas

Volume 498: debated on Monday 2 November 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) what estimate his Department has made of the number of empty properties in rural areas in each year since 1997; (293211)

(2) how many social rented homes in rural areas have been sold in each year since 1997.

The following table shows the total number of vacant dwellings in rural areas in each year since 1997.

Vacant dwellings in rural areas

1997

233,350

1998

223,470

1999

244,200

2000

243,200

2001

227,190

2002

238,070

2003

232,690

2004

228,560

2005

245,480

2006

254,960

2007

262,680

2008

280,710

Source:

Housing Strategy Statistical Appendix (HSSA) returns from local authorities for 1 April 1997 to 2001; Council Taxbase and Council Taxbase Supplementary (CTB1 and CTB1S) returns from local authorities for November 2002 to 2004 and October 2005 to 2008.

Of the 47,360 increase in the number of vacant dwellings between 1997 and 2008, 90 per cent. occurred between 2002 and 2008. Over this period, growth in the number of short term vacants accounts for the entire increase. Short term vacants are defined as being empty for less than six months. Short term vacancies occur for a variety of reasons including repairs, maintenance, housing sales and other transactions. The 2007-08 increase in vacant dwellings was expected as a result of the current economic climate.

The Empty Homes Agency has found that rural local authorities are less active in bringing empty homes back into use than urban authorities. Their research shows that an empty property is three times more likely to be brought back into use if it is in an urban area compared to a rural area.

Total vacant dwellings reported by local authorities through Council Taxbase returns include long term and short term empty dwellings.

The following table shows the number of social homes sold to sitting tenants in rural areas in each year since 1997-98:

Local authority homes sold1

Registered social landlord homes sold2

Total social homes sold

1997-98

12,820

n/a

n/a

1998-99

11,420

n/a

n/a

1999-2000

15,250

n/a

n/a

2000-01

12,840

n/a

n/a

2001-02

12,450

4,070

16,520

2002-03

14,590

5,040

19,640

2003-04

13,950

5,660

19,610

2004-05

8,990

3,510

12,500

2005-06

5,190

1,730

6,920

2006-07

3,430

1,600

5,020

2007-08

2,080

1,100

3,180

2008-09

480

370

840

1 The local authority social housing sales figures are from quarterly P1B returns from local authorities to CLG. The majority of these sales are made through the right to buy scheme, but a small number of other local authority sales are also included.

2 The registered social landlord (RSL) social housing sales figures are from the Tenant Services Authority (TSA) Regulatory and Statistical Returns (RSR), and the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) Investment Management System (IMS). The RSR figures include sales through right to buy, preserved right to buy and right to acquire. The IMS figures include sales through Social HomeBuy. Some RSL sales, such as shared equity sales and disposals to the private sector, and all RSL sales prior to 2001-02, are not available at local authority level and have been excluded from the figures.

All rural figures are calculated based on the DEFRA Rural Definition (2004).