It was a scandal that there 300,000 homes in England are empty when four million people are on housing waiting lists, Communities minister Andrew Stunell has said.
Mr Stunell said if averaged sized families were able to live in the empty properties, around 700,000 more people would have a home and he called on communities to step up the work they were doing to bring long-term empty properties back into use.
The Government has made a £100m fund available to make empty homes habitable again, while communities can also benefit from the New Homes Bonus, under which local authorities receive around £7,000 for the average empty property brought back into use.
Under the scheme the Government matches the council tax raised from these homes for six years, and the local authority can choose how the extra cash is spent.
There are currently around 300,000 properties that are classed as being long-term empty in England. They often fall into disrepair, and attract squatters and vandalism. bringing down the tone of the neighbourhoods that they are in.
Mr Stunell was speaking at an Empty Homes Summit bringing together councils, housing associations and charities as part of a week of intensive action to get empty homes back into use again.
The summit will provide advice on making empty homes habitable again, as well as introducing a mapping tool to help communities identify empty properties.
It will also look at local schemes to tackle the issue, including the Canopy Housing Project in Leeds, under which volunteers help homeless people to renovate derelict properties for them to live in.
Mr Stunell said: “With so many people on housing waiting lists looking for a home of their own, it is a scandal that there are 300,000 long term empty homes across the country.
“These properties are a magnet for squatters, vandalism and anti-social behaviour, a blight on neighbourhoods, and a nightmare for neighbours.
“That’s why the coalition Government has introduced powerful new incentives to encourage communities to refurbish properties and despite the tough financial climate has made £100m available to tackle the problem.”