Vacant dwellings

Key points

In 2019 there were 18,825 vacant dwellings in the Lancashire-12 area, around 3.4% of total dwelling stock. In the wider Lancashire-14 area the figures were 25,384 and 3.7%.

Vacant dwelling numbers have been on the decline for some of the years since 2010 at the national and local levels, but parts of the Lancashire-14 area continue to record vacancy rates that are well above the England average.

Between 2010 and 2019, vacant dwelling numbers fell by 12.1% in England and 18.1% in the Lancashire-14 area. In 2019, vacant dwellings accounted for 2.7% of the total at the national level, but 3.7% for the Lancashire-14 area. Blackpool and Burnley had high levels of vacant dwellings in 2019 at 5.4% and 5.0% respectively. Pendle recorded a significant reduction of 1,068 (39.7%) in vacant dwellings over the nine-year period.

Over the last year, from 2018 to 2019, the number of vacant dwellings in England increased for the third time in the last seven years, by 13,661 (2.2%). Within the Lancashire-14 area, only one area also saw a yearly increase, that being South Ribble with just 17 more, or a 1.2% rise. Vacant dwellings were down by over 170 in each of six Lancashire-14 authorities. Across the whole Lancashire-14 area, the number of vacant dwellings fell by 1,527 (5.7%) over the year.

See Appendix 1 and 2 for the latest data, time series and recent changes. 

Background information

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) collects data on the dwelling stock, and the numbers include details of vacant dwellings: a unit of residential accommodation that is empty at a particular point of time. Vacant dwellings include those that are empty between change of occupants or undergoing refurbishment, awaiting demolition, or newly completed but not occupied.

There will always be a proportion of the housing stock empty to enable the process of buying, selling and letting to work efficiently, whilst some will be empty to allow repairs and improvement. These are known as transactional vacancies and most are brought back into use quickly and without intervention. It is estimated that the effective minimum level of empty homes as a result of these processes is around 2% of the housing stock.

Not all properties are quickly brought back into use and Appendix 1, available as a download at the bottom of the page, details the number of vacant dwellings in the Lancashire-14 area by district from 2010 to 2019. Table 1 below has the stock counts and percentages of vacant dwellings for 2019. Appendix 2 also includes the small numbers of vacant dwellings known to be affecting the local authority and social housing tenure sectors.

Please note that numbers registered as vacant may have fallen since 2013 as councils may now offer zero discount on vacant dwellings which reduces the incentive to register the property as such.

Change over time

Between 2010 and 2019, there was a noticeable decline of 89,033 (12.1%) in vacant dwelling numbers for England as a whole, with a significant decrease (74,299) occurring between 2012 and 2013. The lowest total in England was 589,766 in 2016. In the Lancashire-14 area between 2010 and 2019, the decline amounted to a reduction of 5,601 (18.1%) to give a figure of 25,384 vacant dwellings in 2019.

Please note that numbers registered as Vacant may have fallen since 2013 as councils may now offer zero discount on vacant dwellings which reduces the incentive to register the property as such.

Between 2010 and 2019, Blackpool, South Ribble and Preston actually recorded increases of 237, 74 and 65 respectively in vacant dwellings. In contrast, reductions in excess of 1,000 were seen in Burnley, Wyre and Pendle. Blackburn with Darwen also saw a fall of 321 (10.6%) in the last year alone.

Over the last year, from 2018 to 2019, the number of vacant dwellings in England increased for the third time in the last seven years, by 13,661 (2.2%). Within the Lancashire-14 area, just one area also saw a yearly increase, that being South Ribble with just 17 more, or a 1.2% rise.

For the Lancashire-14 area as a whole, the number of vacant dwellings fell by 1,527 over the last year. For the Lancashire-12 area, the number of vacant dwellings fell by 1,128. The percentage change was the same for both at -5.7%.

Within the Lancashire-14 area, Blackburn with Darwen saw the largest fall of 321 (10.6%) vacant dwellings between 2018 and 2019, followed by Lancaster (213, 8.7%), West Lancashire (204, 14.3%), Pendle (197, 10.8%), Wyre (172, 18.2%) and Burnley (also 172, 7.6%).

Vacant dwellings as a proportion of all dwelling stock

At the national level, the 648,114 vacant dwellings represented 2.7% of total dwellings, whilst for Lancashire-14, the percentage was somewhat higher at 3.7%. The proportion of vacant dwellings is a significant issue in some Lancashire authorities. The highest proportions were found in Blackpool with 5.5% and in Burnley with 5.0% of dwelling stock standing vacant in 2019. The 3,842 empty properties in Blackpool by far exceeded those in any other Lancashire authority, with only Blackburn with Darwen and Preston, also having more than 2,500. The Hyndburn proportion was 4.5% while Fylde and Blackburn with Darwen (both 4.4%) and Preston (4.2%) also had high rates

The only Lancashire authorities which recorded a percentage of vacant dwellings below the 2.7% England average were Wyre at 1.5% and West Lancashire at 2.4%, while the rate in Chorley was the same as England. Vacancy rates were slightly above the England value in South Ribble (2.8%). The very low rate in Wyre is a testimony to the extent to which vacant stock has fallen since 2010, a decline of nearly 60% over nine years and of 18.2% since 2018.

Table 1: Vacant dwellings, 2019

  Vacant dwellings1 Total dwelling stock Percentage dwellings vacant
Burnley  2,089 41,6702  5.0%
Chorley  1,381 51,6203  2.7%
Fylde  1,751 39,8203  4.4%
Hyndburn  1,660 36,9302  4.5%
Lancaster  2,245 64,7102 3.5%
Pendle  1,620 40,4002  4.0%
Preston  2,666 64,1003  4.2%
Ribble Valley 839 27,3503  3.1%
Rossendale  1,169 32,1603  3.6%
South Ribble  1,404 50,1603  2.8%
West Lancashire  1,227 50,2103  2.4%
Wyre 774 52,5802  1.5%
Lancashire-12  18,825 549,6703  3.4%
Blackburn with Darwen 2,717 61,3402 4.4%
Blackpool  3,842 71,6802  5.4%
Lancashire-14  25,384 682,6904  3.7%
England  648,114 24,435,8702  2.7%

Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) The total dwelling stock figure is the highest out of the two data sources indicated [2] or [3]
[1] GOV.UK website, live tables on dwelling stock, Table 615. The figures constitute an exact count.
[2] GOV.UK website, Council tax: stock of properties, 2019
[3] 
GOV.UK website, live tables on dwelling stock, Table 100 Total dwelling stocks are based on figures from the 2011 Census, updated using the Housing Flows Reconciliation Form. These figures are therefore both provisional and estimated, and are rounded to the nearest 10.
[4] Derived from GOV.UK website, Council tax: stock of properties, 2019

Additional Information  

The Homes and Communities Agency's website has an empty homes web page.

The Action on empty homes website contains information on initiatives to help tackle the problem of unused dwellings.

The new homes bonus is a grant paid by central government to local councils for increasing the number of homes. The web link gives access to a spreadsheet that details the financial allocations for all authorities across the country, and the numbers of empty homes that have been brought back into use.   

The present rules on council tax levied on empty homes mean that it is up to the local council to decide on whether discounts are applicable.

Page updated May 2020.