More than 16,500 people seeking council housing in Southwark are currently on the waiting list while an increasing number of houses are left empty by owners in spite of the efforts and measures set by the Council.
In the Southern borough of London, many are in search of a place they can call home, in vain. In 2022, the number of vacant council-owned properties in Southwark has increased compared to 2021, with a total of 1,714 unoccupied residences owned by the council this year compared to approximately 1,400 in 2021.
This is an unexpected increase as the Southwark council pledged for a zero tolerance approach towards empty homes last year. The council set out a plan which mainly focused on reducing the number of empty homes in the private sector as well as council properties on a smaller scale. Measures proposed included creating a Compulsory Purchase Order Fund or guaranteed income levels for property owners, The plan also called for councils to have more powers granted by the government such as enabling local authorities to increase council tax rates on homes empty for more than 6 months.
According to Darren Merrill, the Cabinet Member for Council Homes and Homelessness “Empty homes aren’t just a blight on our communities, acting a point of anti-social behaviour; they are an act of injustice when we have over 16,000 households on our waiting list for a home”.
According to Perry Singh, the strategy and support manager at Southwark Council, the number of empty homes in the private sector have decreased by a thousand but the council-owned empty houses keep increasing. “That is almost exclusively down to the inactive voids, which are the regeneration voids and the refurbishment voids.”
Ali who is disabled has had to move for mobility reasons as suggested by the Environment health that they should be on a ground floor is on the waiting list “ I’ve been on my council list for 5 years, I feel I’m discriminated against by the council and my landlords.” For home seekers, the search can feel exhausting and endless, with no glimpse of light anywhere in the near future and the empty homes concern does not help anyone.