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House homeless twice over: Outrage in Europe over 11mn empty homes

Around 11 million homes across Europe are empty or not in use – a number that could house all the EU homeless twice over, British media report. Housing campaigners who lobby for the rights of the poor have called the finding a “shocking waste.”

Among the frontrunners with vacant houses are the UK with 700,000 homes; Germany with 1.8 million; France with 2.4 million; and finally, Spain with some 3.4 million homes which are languishing without tenants. These figures are a result of data collated by The Guardian.

What’s more, the high figures are growing at an alarming rate. In France the number of empty houses has gone up by nearly half a million since 2009.

The above aren’t the only countries with a bad record. Greece and Portugal, whose economic situations are arguably far worse than the aforementioned countries, are not far behind in numbers.

Before the financial crisis of 2007-08 came the housing boom. People were buying up properties, a large number of which were in the luxury sector.

Moreover, a substantial number of the homes were never even meant for occupation; they were simply investments. Furthermore, some half-built homes were bulldozed in an effort to drive up the price for the remainder.

Housing campaigners called the large numbers a “shocking waste,” especially at a time when there are more homeless on the streets than ever before. One lobbyist with the Empty Homes charity told The Guardian that “it’s a massive number” that “will be shocking to ordinary people.”

“Homes are built for people to live in, if they’re not being lived in then something has gone seriously wrong with the housing market,” David Ireland continued, also saying that policy-makers needed to take urgent action against wealthy buyers who use homes solely as “investment vehicles.” As the newspaper also pointed out, citing estate agent Savills, the trend is very strong in London, while prices since the 2007 crisis have gone up by a staggering 27 percent. And the practice and price hikes are becoming a Europe-wide habit.

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