Vacant dwellings

Key points

In 2021 there were 17,140 vacant dwellings in the Lancashire-12 area, around 3.1% of total dwelling stock. In the wider Lancashire-14 area the figures were 22,900 and 3.3%.

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 2021, vacant dwelling numbers fell by 11.4% in England and 28.6% in the Lancashire-12 area. In 2021, vacant dwellings accounted for 2.6% of the total at the national level, but 3.1% for the Lancashire-12 area and 3.3% for the Lancashire-14 area. Blackpool and Burnley had high levels of vacant dwellings in 2021 at 4.5% and 4.4% respectively. Wyre recorded a significant reduction of 1,068 (56.9%) in vacant dwellings over the eleven-year period. For Pendle the reduction was 1,260 (46.9%) and in Hyndburn 1,139 (46.6%).

Over the last year, from 2020 to 2021, the number of vacant dwellings in England fell for the first time in the last five years, by 12,603 (1.9%). Within the Lancashire-14 area, only one authority saw a yearly increase, that being Ribble Valley, and then only marginally by 2 dwellings. Everywhere else there were falls, the largest being the 373 in Preston (13.3%) and the 353 in Blackpool (9.8%).

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 2020. Table 1 below has the stock counts and percentages of vacant dwellings for 2020. 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 2021, there was a noticeable decline of 84,122 (11.4%) 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 but has risen slowly since then until 2020. In the Lancashire-14 area between 2010 and 2021, the decline amounted to a reduction of 8,085 (26.1%) to give a figure of 22,900 vacant dwellings in 2021.

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 2021, Wyre recorded a significant reduction of 1,068 (56.9%) in vacant dwellings over the eleven-year period. Large reductions were also seen in Pendle: 1,260 (46.9%) and Hyndburn: 1,139 (46.6%). In all of the Lancashire 12 and 14 areas as well as the North West region and England vacant dwellings were fewer in 2021 than in 2010.

Over the last year, from 2020 to 2021, the number of vacant dwellings in England fell for the first time in the last five years, by 12,603 (1.9%). Within the Lancashire-14 area, only one authority saw a yearly increase, that being Ribble Valley, and then only marginally by 2 dwellings. Everywhere else there were falls, the largest being the 373 in Preston (13.3%) and the 353 in Blackpool (9.8%).

For the Lancashire-14 area as a whole the number of vacant dwellings fell by 1,524 over the last year. For the Lancashire-12 area, the number of vacant dwellings fell by 2,027. The percentage changes were 8.2% and 8.1% respectively.

Within the Lancashire-14 area, Preston saw the largest fall of 373 (13.26%) vacant dwellings between 2020 and 2021, followed by Blackpool (353, 9.8%), Fylde (197, 11.6%) and Hyndburn (189, 12.6%)

Vacant dwellings as a proportion of all dwelling stock

At the national level, the 653,025 vacant dwellings represented 2.6% of total dwellings, whilst for Lancashire-14, the percentage was somewhat higher at 3.3%. The proportion of vacant dwellings is a significant issue in some Lancashire authorities. The highest proportions were found in Blackpool with 4.5% and in Burnley with 4.4% of dwelling stock standing vacant in 2021. The 3,256 empty properties in Blackpool by far exceeded those in any other Lancashire authority with only Blackburn with Darwen, Preston and Lancaster also having more than 2,000. The Blackburn with Darwen proportion was also high at 4%, followed by Preston and Fylde at 3.7%.

The Lancashire authorities which recorded a percentage of vacant dwellings below the 2.6% England average were Wyre at 1.5% and South Ribble at 2.5%, while the rates in Chorley and West Lancashire at 2.6% were the same as England. The vacancy rate was slightly above the England value in Ribble Valley (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 57% over eleven years.

Table 1: Vacant dwellings, 2021

  Vacant dwellings1 Total dwelling stock2 Percentage dwellings vacant
Burnley  1,832 42,030  4.4%
Chorley  1,353 52,150  2.6%
Fylde  1,502 40,100  3.7%
Hyndburn  1,307 37,260  3.5%
Lancaster  2,052 65,880 3.1%
Pendle  1,428 40,870 3.5%
Preston  2,439 65,160  3.7%
Ribble Valley 774 27,990 2.8%
Rossendale  1,068 32,260 3.3%
South Ribble  1,273 50,480  2.5%
West Lancashire  1,302 50,650  2.6%
Wyre 810 53,470  1.5%
Lancashire-12  17,140 558,300  3.1%
Blackburn with Darwen 2,504 62,080 4.0%
Blackpool  3,256 72,000 4.5%
Lancashire-14  22,900 692,380  3.3%
England  653,025 24,881,440  2.6%

Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG)
[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, 2021

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 April 2022.