The number of empty council homes in Southwark has risen nearly threefold over the past decade, according to new central government figures.
The data shows that there were 388 empty council homes in 2012, compared with 1,051 in 2021. The numbers have risen steadily over the intervening ten years.
The vast majority of these empty homes are because of major refurbishments on big council properties like the Aylesbury Estate in Walworth and the Ledbury Estate in Peckham, as well as Maydew House in Bermondsey, according to Southwark Council.
The Aylesbury Estate accounted for 611 empty properties, a council report on empty homes from October last year stated – of which 400 had been vacant for more than two years. Some 96 properties were from the Ledbury Estate, 84 of which had been empty for more than two years. Maydew House accounted for 135 of the empty homes.
Other homes needed refurbishing or other work done before new tenants could move in, the council said in the report.
The rising number of empty council homes in the borough comes at a time when the council has been under fire for its ‘infilling’ social house building programme – building new homes on existing estates – often with criticism from current residents. Southwark has justified its programme by pointing to the 16,200 households on its housing waiting list, as well as the thousands more in temporary accommodation.
The empty homes are only a small fraction of the council’s housing stock, which, at about 37,000 social rent homes, makes it the largest social landlord in London.
Southwark’s council housing chief Stephanie Cryan told the News last year that there were never more than 1.5 per cent of social rent homes in the borough standing empty, although the new figure would almost double the proportion, to 2.8 per cent.
The council also said this was a relatively small proportion of the total number of empty homes in the borough, which it has pledged to tackle. Some 7,700 homes are vacant in Southwark in total, of which about 5,800 are privately owned, meaning empty council homes only make up about 14 per cent of the overall figure.
Cllr Cryan said: “The vast majority of empty council-owned homes are related to major refurbishment or ongoing estate redevelopments, particularly larger schemes like the Aylesbury, Ledbury and Tustin Estates as well as those where we need vacant buildings for fire safety works like Marie Curie House. These account for 1,001 long-term empty council homes.
“The remainder of empty council homes is a small number – less than 1% of our 37,000 council homes – that varies day by day as a result of residents moving in and out. These properties need re-decorating or improvements to bring them up to our high standards before they are re-let. We have specific targets to turn around these properties and bring them back into use as soon as possible.”