empty homes shuttered in Greater Manchester

The number of empty homes increases across Greater Manchester, with eight out of ten boroughs recording an increase between 2019 and 2020. National online rally to highlight the issues calls on housing campaigners to join forces and put the issue ‘on the national agenda and make the politicians listen’.

The number of empty homes across Manchester has increased from 1,218 in 2019 to 1,455 in 2020,  a 19% increase that comes at a time when many are struggling to find decent affordable accommodation and the housing waiting list in the city is on the increase.

Using data published by Action On Empty Homes, then looking at the information for Greater Manchester (GM) shows that across the ten boroughs there were 11,081 empty homes in 2019, rising to 12,607 in 2020, a 14% increase across the region. Eight of the ten GM boroughs saw an increase in empty homes with Rochdale showing the biggest percentage increase at 66%, followed by Wigan at 28%.

The increase in empty homes in Manchester has occurred alongside a growing local housing waiting list. In 2019 this stood at 14,608 households, which increased by 2% to 14,927 households in 2020. This continues a rising trend which has seen a 27% increase in the waiting list in Manchester between 2016 and 2020.

The empty homes data was collated and analysed by charity Action on Empty Homes (AEH), which held an online rally on Saturday 17 April, in collaboration with Homes For All, to highlight the growing number of empty homes in England. Across the country AEH calculated there were 270,000 long-term empty homes, 250,000 second homes without permanent residents and 120,000 Airbnb type short lets.

The online rally’s speakers included John Bird, the founder of the Big Issue, who encouraged organisations and individuals interested in the “social justice issue of homelessness” to get involved in the ongoing campaign against empty homes already supported by a diverse group of housing campaigners at the rally.

Logos of organisations supporting todays Empty Homes Day of Action. Image: Action on Empty Homes

Will McMahon from AEH said campaigners from across the country have told him that “corporate and wealth investment” in housing is breaking up communities and families across the country, and

“…people are being forced out of the areas that they grew up in because housing has become unaffordable, yet just down the road there is an empty home, an Airbnb, a second home that could be lived in. This inequality in housing is growing by the day and the growing number of long-term empty homes is a canary in the coalmine indicating the size of the housing crisis we face. This has never been more demonstrated than by the present health emergency we are all facing. The pandemic has amplified and laid bare the health costs of housing inequality…”

A video from housing campaigners in Rochdale fighting to save social housing at the Seven Sisters tower blocks and College Bank flats, stated that “around 250 flats currently stand empty” in the blocks earmarked for regeneration and that if the plans went ahead it would mean “the loss of 480 homes on this estate alone”.

Several members of the Rochdale housing campaign battling to save the Seven Sisters are also members of Greater Manchester Tenants Union. A spokesperson from GMTU, when presented with the empty home figures for Greater Manchester, said they are:
“Extremely concerned that empty homes are increasing when we have a housing and homelessness crisis. Financialised investment in property, buy to lets and short term lets make housing harder to find or afford for long term residents damaging communities, with underused properties which should be homes not assets. 

“Political leaders must do more, and demand additional powers and resources to restrict short term lets, and take control of empty and underused property for social use.

“Hundreds of homes are being held empty by RBH on College Bank and Lower Falinge at a time when Rochdale has a homelessness crisis, and that will be a major reason why their empty homes percentage rise is the highest in Greater Manchester. 

“This regeneration scheme imposed upon residents, which is unpopular, against council policy, and without any clear plan or guarantees to tenants and leaseholders should be cancelled.”  Also speaking at the rally was Hannah Berry of Greater Manchester Housing Action, who spoke about the group’s formation just before the last GM mayoral election in 2017, when the large numbers of rough sleepers on the streets of the city centre contrasted sharply with the increasing number of skyscrapers with flats unaffordable to many being built across the city. With the next mayoral election approaching in May, Berry spoke of the continuing housing crisis in Manchester and of the “developer led-model, by which public land is transferred into private ownership and homes are effectively transferred from places to live into assets for the global elite” being the only real game in town.

The rally also included live streams from demonstrations occurring in Southwark, Haringey and Islington. To round up the event Tanya Murat of Homes for All called for more groups to get involved in the empty homes campaign to form a broad coalition that would put the issues “on the national agenda and make the politicians listen” before the next day of action they were planning in October of this year.


The Meteor has pledged to support the empty homes campaign organised by Action on Empty Homes and Homes for All. Over the coming months, leading up to the next day of action in October, The Meteor will produce a series of articles investigating the issue of empty homes across the region.

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Feature image: Wikipedia Commons

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  • Editor and co-founder of The Meteor. Reporting interests include social justice, the environment, and human rights. A staunch advocate for the scientific method and rational debate for understanding the world - he believes only greater public understanding and engagement in the problems that face us all can produce progressive societies, from the local to the global, that can combat the multiple crises we face.

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  1. It would be interesting to learn more about what methods outlier Salford used to get a result in the opposite direction (i.e. 186 fewer empty homes, a 15% decrease).

  2. Direct action by councils and campaigners is essential to bring these houses back in to use.

    Mid/long term, we need to disincentivise the practice of ‘investing in housing’ by taxing land (this could be offset by reduction in VAT – which would massively help most renters )

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