England has more than twice as many long-term empty homes this Christmas as there are children living in temporary accommodation, the Liberal Democrats have said, calling this a stark indication of a “broken” housing market.
The numbers of families without a permanent home and in short-term housing, whether hotels and B&Bs or temporary rental properties, has hit a record high this year, with the latest statistics showing it now affects 121,327 children, according to data collated by the House of Commons library.
Other figures, also compiled by the library, show that councils across England have 261,189 homes that are classed as long-term vacant, meaning they have been empty for six months or more.
While the empty properties do not all match where the children live, in 242 of the 313 English local authorities the statistics showed more empty homes than children in temporary accommodation.
Birmingham had the single-biggest number of children in temporary accommodation, at just over 9,400, and also has nearly 6,400 long-term vacant homes.
Many of the councils with large numbers of children in B&Bs and short-term lets are in London, including Newham (nearly 8,600) and Enfield (4,500). Another 11 London boroughs recorded between 4,100 and 2,300 children living this way.
Analysis of government data by the Observer this month showed that 4.4% of all under-18s from London were living in temporary accommodation at the end of June, rising as high as nearly 12% in Westminster and just over 10% in Newham and in Kensington and Chelsea.
Helen Morgan, the Lib Dems’ housing spokesperson, said: “It is heartbreaking to think so many children are going without a permanent place to call home this Christmas, while thousands of houses lie empty.
“It’s a sign of just how broken the housing market has become under this Conservative government. For years the government has utterly failed to build the social and affordable housing we need, leaving far too many people without a secure home.
“The Liberal Democrats would tackle the housing crisis, giving local authorities the powers they need to take on big developers and deliver the affordable homes that their communities need.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, said: “All children deserve a safe and decent place to call home. We’re spending £1bn, to tackle homelessness and get families into permanent accommodation, and we have reduced the number of long-term empty homes by more than 50,000 since 2010.
“We have given councils the power to increase council tax by up to 300% on long-term empty properties, and take over empty homes by compulsory purchase orders and empty dwelling management orders.
“We also recently laid out an ambitious long-term plan for housing and are on track to deliver 1 million homes this parliament.”