Councils have brought 23,000 empty homes back into use over the past five years, although more than 11,000 have now been unoccupied for over a decade.
Around 275 councils across England and Wales have released data showing that 60,000 homes had been empty for two or more years, and 23,000 had sat unused for five or more years, while around 200,000 had been empty for six months or more.
The figures show a major improvement since 2010, with the number of empty homes down by a third, which is the lowest level it has been since records began, according to one government spokesperson.
Councils can make use of empty dwelling management orders (EDMOs), which give them the power to take over homes that have been empty for more than six months, although only one in 13 local authorities are employing these measures, according to the research by the Liberal Democrats. Vince Cable, leader of the Lib Dems, believes the government needs to look at improving the current system.
The right direction
In the Autumn Budget announcement, Phillip Hammond said that the government would be targeting owners of empty homes to get them back into occupation, by allowing councils to increase the council tax premium to 100% from the existing rate of 100%.
A spokesperson for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “We’ve given councils a range of powers to bring empty homes back into use and the number of empty homes is down a third since 2010 to its lowest since records began.
“At the same time, we’re implementing the major changes to law and investing over £1bn to 2020 to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping.”