Jeremy Corbyn has suggested that ‘requisitioning’ vacant properties of the rich in Kensington could be a solution to the lack of accommodation available to the displaced residents of Grenfell Tower.
Mr Corbyn described the London borough as a ‘tale of two cities’ between a wealthy south and poor north.
Speaking at a meeting to MPs, Mr Corbyn said: “Properties must be found – requisitioned if necessary – in order to make sure residents do get rehoused locally.
“How is it acceptable that in London you have luxury buildings and luxury flats kept empty as land banking for that future while homeless people look for somewhere to live?”
This follows recent findings that Kensington and Chelsea has overtaken Lambeth as the London borough with the most empty houses.
According to a study by Property Planner, the number of empty homes in Kensington and Chelsea has risen by nearly 25% in a decade, with an estimated surplus of 1,200 houses sat idle for more than six months in 2016 and would be worth £664 million if sold on the market.
Property investment marketplace Property Partner analysed figures from the Department of Communities and Local Government on ‘long-term vacant dwellings’ in England and Wales between 2006 and 2016.
In England as a whole, there were 200,145 empty homes in 2016, which are worth £43bn in total.
Unsurprisingly, London accounts for a substantial proportion of the empty properties, with some 19,845 homes sat empty for more than six months last year, collectively worth £9.4bn at the average market price.
Dan Gandesha, Property Partner CEO, said: “We’d like to see the trend of the last decade continue, particularly where prices and demand are highest. That’s why it is a concern that in London 14 of 33 boroughs saw an increase in empty homes compared with the previous year.
“It would be encouraging to see that number reduce over the course of 2017, particularly when you consider that in and around London, some of the poorest workers are being pushed towards spending more than 40% of their income on rent.”
The large number of empty houses in the capital also comes at a time of rising homelessness in the UK. The number of people sleeping rough has risen by 54% since 2010, according to government figures released last year.
Homeless charity Shelter estimates that there are at least 255,000 homeless people in England.
Last September, Sadiq Khan announced he had appointed the London School of Economics to conduct research into the amount of overseas buyers in the capital.
Mr Khan said: “London is open to people and investment from around the world. We welcome people from all countries who want to make the capital their home, and we welcome international investment that can be crucial in kick-starting the building of new homes.
“At the same time, many Londoners have real concerns about new homes being left empty and the fact that this may be linked to those which are bought off-plan by overseas investors.
“It’s time we took a closer look at the issues surrounding overseas investment and found out the true impact on London’s housing crisis.”
He added: “Tackling empty homes is one of the ways Britain can fix its broken housing market.”
The government estimates that there needs to be 250,000 more properties made available each year to tackle the housing crisis in the UK.