Nearly 11,000 homes nationwide have remained empty for 10 years or more, according to new research.
The Liberal Democratic Party, which obtained these figures through responses from 276 local councils to a Freedom of Information request, found that more than 216,000 homes across the UK have been empty for six months or more. Of these, 61,251 have been unoccupied for two years or more, 23,596 for five years or more, and 10,923 for 10 years-plus.
Liberal Democratic leader Vince Cable had described the number of empty homes as “a national scandal” at a time when the homelessness crisis in worsening.
“These homes could be turned into affordable places to live for some of the most vulnerable people in our society,” he says.
The five areas with the largest number of homes empty for six months or more were Durham (6,502), Leeds (5,724), Bradford (4,144), Cornwall (3,273) and Liverpool (3,093).
Meanwhile, the worst-offending councils, which have allowed homes to remain empty for 10 years or more, were Durham (646), Leeds (476), Stockport (380), Sefton (233) and Wolverhampton (202).
Overall, councils put back into use 29,540 empty homes through direct action and the work of their empty home teams.
But just one in 13 local authorities make use of Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMO), which give councils in England and Wales the power to take control of properties that have been empty for more than six months. The research found that only 19 of the 247 councils in England and Wales that responded to the Freedom of Information request had used an EDMO in the past five years.
The Liberal Democrats are calling for reform of EDMOs and stronger powers for local councils to bring long-term empty homes back into use.
Mr Cable adds: “The government needs to urgently review the current system, which is clearly not working. Councils need to be given the powers and resources to bring empty homes back into use.
“This must form part of a wider package to tackle the housing crisis, including building more homes on unused public-sector land and clamping down on land-banking.”