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Call for reform to tackle 'national scandal' of empty homes

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More than 200,000 homes have been sitting empty for six months or more, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.

Of almost 215,000 empty homes, about 61,000 have been empty for two years or more, about 23,500 for five years or more, while almost 11,000 have stood empty for at least 10 years.

The areas with the largest number of homes empty for six months or more are Durham (6,502), Leeds (5,724), Bradford (4,144), Cornwall (3,273) and Liverpool (3,093).

The figures, obtained by the Liberal Democrats, showed only 19 of the 247 councils in England and Wales to respond to the FOI request are making use of Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMOs), of which six were used in the last year. The powers under the Housing Act 2004 allow councils to take over properties that have been empty for at least six months. The powers do not apply to councils in Scotland.

Councils have collectively returned around 29,500 empty homes back into use, including through direct action and the work of empty home teams.

Lib Dem leader Vince Cable said it is “a national scandal” so many homes are sitting empty when homelessness is increasing.

“These homes could be turned into affordable places to live for some of the most vulnerable people in our society,” he said.

“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.”

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