Nobody's Home: How wealth investment locks Londoners out of housing

What you need to know:

  • London is building the wrong housing to resolve the housing crisis.
  • Homelessness is rising at the same time as empty homes numbers shoot up and more second homes and Airbnb-ready flats are built in the capital.
  • A wide range of voices are saying it is time to stop building yet more empty homes.

This report from Action on Empty Homes, funded by Trust for London, draws on new data, discussion with impacted local communities and interviews with policy-makers on empty homes and calls for housing development in London to meet local needs, not investors' priorities.

Key findings

  • London is building the wrong housing to resolve the housing crisis.
  • Homelessness is rising at the same time as empty homes numbers shoot up and more second homes and Airbnb-ready flats are built in the capital.
  • A wide range of voices are saying it is time to stop building yet more empty homes.
  • The climate crisis shows us why we need to retrofit not demolish council estates and take a ‘RetroFirst’ approach to development, including retrofitting long-term housing stock for a more sustainable future.

Key recommendations

  • London boroughs need to take action on empty homes, adopting more robust strategies to challenge emptiness of all types.
  • Bringing wasted empty homes into use is critical for sustainability and a RetroFirst approach is crucial in addressing our climate emergency.
  • Airbnb needs tighter regulation and data sharing with borough enforcement teams.
  • A Vacancy tax is needed.
  • The second homes category must be reformed or abolished.
  • A transparent national register of residential property ownership and usage is required.
  • A new Government-funded programme of support for enforcement, incentives and investment at local level is needed.
  • Local Planning must be meaningful, informed and not undermined by national planning policy.
Year after year, London builds more of the wrong housing, houses fewer of those in acute need and increases homelessness. With at least 100,000 homes with no permanent resident it’s time for action. That means getting to grips with the 30,000 long term empty homes in the capital, controls on Airbnb, and support for local communities that want the low-cost homes Londoners need, not more of the ones they can’t afford or never even get a chance to rent.
Will McMahon, Director, Action on Empty Homes
Over 60,000 London families are living in Temporary Accommodation, often out of Borough and away from relatives and long-standing community networks. This jars when communities can see hundreds of new homes being built on their doorstep. New homes need to be just that: homes for people to live in. By bringing vacant and under-used property back into use, and making it more costly to leave new homes empty, we can help house all Londoners and tackle the housing crisis.
Manny Hothi, Chief Executive, Trust for London

13 September 2021