The total number of private and public empty homes in England leapt from 650,127 in April last year to 662,105 in April 2011. A rise of over 1.8%.

According to the latest Halifax ‘Empty Homes in England’ survey of 326 local authority districts, this rise was tempered by a drop of long term empty homes in England, which has fallen to 292,313, a fall of 3,206 and the lowest level since 2008.

Of all the private homes in England 1.6% of them are now classified as long term empty. And of all the empty housing 44% are private long term empty homes.

An empty home is defined as “…a dwelling which is vacant because it is either between occupants, undergoing modernisation, in disrepair or awaiting demolition”.

It will also come as little surprise that house prices are lower in areas where there are more empty homes.

The North West is plagued by the largest proportion of long term empty homes having a full 22% of them. As a result, Pendle in the North West for example sees its houses going for an average of 29% below the average for the region.

The Mortgage Director of Halifax, Stephen Noakes, said:

This research further demonstrates the significant impacts that empty homes have on the housing market, and it is clear that action is necessary. Long-term empty homes account for about 1.6% of all private homes in England. And at a time when first-time buyers are still facing numerous obstacles to getting on the ladder, it is imperative we look further at the issue as an industry.

Whilst Martin Ellis, the Halifax housing economist remarked:

Whilst it is encouraging that the number of private homes in England that have been empty for at least six months has declined over the last few years, it is still at a high level, particularly in the context of the country's ongoing housing shortage. Locally, the existence of empty homes remains a particular problem in a number of areas, especially in the North West. In some cases, the proportion of empty homes is more than double the national average.

The country has a strain on housing, is not building them fast enough and we still have a huge number of empty homes. And to make matters worse many attract a lower level of council tax.

It makes you ask where the people are all living.

The truth may be that they are gradually being crammed more and more into any available space. Well the poor may well be.

We may now be seeing the dawn of homes of multiple occupancy (i.e. single room tenancies) becoming more the norm and less the exception, at least for the less well heeled.

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