By Rowena Mason in The Guardian.
More than 11,000 homes across the country have been lying empty for longer than a decade despite the housing crisis and rising homelessness, according to new research by the Liberal Democrats.
The data was collected through freedom of information requests to about 275 councils, which showed 60,000 properties had been empty for two years or more, 23,000 for five years or more, and over 11,000 have stood empty for at least 10 years.
Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats, told the Guardian: “At a time when the homelessness crisis is worsening and more and more people are sleeping out in the cold on our streets, it is a national scandal that thousands of homes across the country are sitting empty.”
Government data suggests about 200,000 homes have been empty for six months or more but information on longer-term vacant properties is not routinely published.
The Lib Dem research also showed that just one in 13 councils are making use of empty dwelling management orders (EDMO) – the powers that can be used by local authorities to take over properties that have been empty for at least six months.
Only 19 of the 247 councils in England and Wales that responded had used an EDMO in the past five years. Of these, only six had used one in the past year. In total, councils returned about 23,000 empty homes back into use, including through direct action and the work of empty home teams.
The Liberal Democrats are calling for reform of EDMOs and tougher powers for local councils to be able to bring long-term empty homes back into use.
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