More than 205,000 homes on council tax databases have been empty for more than six months - an increase of 5,000 on the position a year earlier, the charity Empty Homes has found.
It said this 2.6% rise was the first increase since 2008, though the proportion of empty English homes was broadly stable at 0.85% of all homes.
Empty Homes said its research showed 37 out of 53 of the areas with the highest proportion of long-term empty properties were in the north of England, and there were notably higher proportions of such among both the lowest and highest value properties.
The charity’s director Helen Williams said: “Building new homes is essential, but so too is making the most of our existing properties.
“We are urging the government to establish funding for neighbourhood improvement schemes in lower value areas to support local authorities and community organisations to buy and refurbish empty properties, and to tackle the underlying causes like poor housing in parts of the private rented sector.”
Ms Williams said the government should explore additional measures to stop people buying properties to leave empty and exploit rising values.
She said this could include allowing councils to charge “a lot more [tax] where properties are left empty or hardly ever used” or implement “planning reforms to ensure properties are built and occupied first and foremost to meet housing needs”.