The ‘missing’ homes; new Community Insight data on estimates of the proportion of vacant dwellings across England

By Laura Carmody & OCSI - on 03/05/2018

We are in a housing crisis!

You don’t have to look hard to see headlines drawing our attention to the shortage of housing across the UK and more specifically affordable, decent homes. In response to this, house builders are working tirelessly to see how their development pipelines will tackle the estimated 275,000 additional units required per year to meet the current demand (DCLG 2017).  But with the average build time for new properties being more than 12 months (although this does vary by scheme), a difficulty in finding low-cost sites for development and a continued debate over the development of green belt land, are brand new developments the only answer? 










Estimates of vacant dwellings are a helpful measure of the housing stock within a given area and in 2001 this Census measure was further broken down to provide a figure of vacant dwellings that were second homes and holiday homes. Unfortunately, the 2011 Census data provided only an overall estimate of household spaces with no residents. This distinction is important, as the more detailed breakdown shows the proportion of dwellings in a given area that are vacant without being occasionally occupied as holiday accommodation or second homes – and is therefore an insight into the amount of housing stock that is absent from the market despite being empty; houses that are already built but require repurposing and maintenance to bring them back to being useable dwellings in areas of high housing demand.

What do the estimates show? 







At a higher geographic level, mapping the data by hotspots in Community Insight shows a few interesting trends:  

Even when excluding second homes and holiday homes, many of the areas with the highest levels of vacant dwellings are outside of major cities – in rural areas and coastal towns e.g. coastal towns in Cornwall, Devon and Norfolk, as well as rural areas in Yorkshire and The Cotswolds. However, there are also high levels of vacant dwellings at small area level in more populated Northern cities such as Nottingham, Stoke, Stafford, Sheffield, Liverpool, Preston and Leeds.  

Wealthier London boroughs also have higher levels of vacant dwellings (excluding second homes and holiday homes) than other boroughs in the capital. Particularly in Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea and the City of London. 

Explore Community Insight and vacant dwellings for yourself 

Explore the data for yourself in more detail for the wards and specific communities you work in, alongside more than 900 other datasets. To find this data don’t forget to look under the unassigned data sets within Group Admin > Manage your indicators, and search for Vacant dwellings. 

Don’t have access to Community Insight? Request your free demo of Community Insight today by clicking here. A member of the HACT team will be in touch. 

About the data 

Given the outdated nature of the Census 2001 measure on vacant dwellings (excluding second homes and holiday accommodation), we have created an updated estimate of vacant dwellings in 2017 at Output Area level. This is based on a combination of Local Authority level estimates of vacant dwellings for 2017, Census 2011 household spaces with no residents and Census 2001 vacant dwellings.  

The new data has now been added to Community Insight England. 

How was this dataset created? 

The dataset was created as a proportion of all dwellings that are vacant in an area, excluding second homes and holiday homes.  

Firstly, using the above data sources, the 2017 count of vacant dwellings by Output Area was calculated as follows:  

  1. Calculate an estimate of vacant dwellings in 2011 based on the total number of households with no residents (Census 2011) * the proportion of all dwellings that were vacant dwellings excluding second homes and holiday homes (Census 2001).  

  1. Calculate the share of vacant dwellings in each Output Area in 2011 = 2011 estimate of vacant dwellings (created in stage 1) * Local Authority District vacant dwellings (2017).  

  1. Multiply the Output Area share created in stage 2 by the Local Authority 2017 vacant dwellings count to get a 2017 Output Area vacant dwellings count.  

Secondly, the rate was calculated and displayed on Community Insight as follows = Output Area vacant dwellings count 2017/Total dwellings (Census 2011). 


Further information about the data and sources 

  • Local authority level 2017 estimates are drawn from several separately published sources including all vacants and long-term vacants from the Council Tax Base (CTB), Local Authority vacants and Other public sector vacants from the Local Authority Housing Statistics (LAHS) and Private Registered Provider (housing association) vacants and long-term vacants from the 2012 Homes and Communities Agency’s Statistical Data return (SDR), see here for more information:   

  • Census 2011 data is based on a record of households with no residents from the table KS401EW Dwellings, household spaces and accommodation type   

  • Census 2001 data is based on a record of housing stock that is categorised as a vacant household space or second residence/holiday accommodation, from the table UV053 Housing stock   

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