Anger over thousands of houses left empty

Thousands of properties are sitting empty in the county each year, while households in the area continue to be faced with homelessness, figures show.

Campaigners say abandoned dwellings should be repurposed to tackle England's housing crisis, after councils across the country recorded hundreds of thousands of empty homes.

Figures from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) show there were at least 4,071 empty properties in the county as of October – 2,756 in Shropshire and 1,315 in Telford and Wrekin.

In Shropshire 1,444 had been gathering dust for six months or more, with 533 in the same situation in Telford & Wrkein, while at least 579 Shropshire homes had been abandoned for more than two years, with 141 in Telford & Wrekin.

The figures, which cover properties subject to council tax, also show 1,573 dwellings in Shropshire were listed as second homes last month, with 271 in Telford & Wrekin.

Different DLUHC figures show in 2020-21, 898 households in Telford and Wrekin were entitled to council support after becoming homeless or at risk of homelessness.

The Local Government Association has called on the Government to give local authorities greater powers to acquire empty homes.

A spokesman for the LGA, which represents councils, said: “At a time when we face a chronic housing shortage across the country and high levels of homelessness, it is wrong for so many homes to be left empty."

Across England, the number of empty homes – dwellings that are unoccupied and unfurnished – fell by two per cent to 468,000, while the number of second homes dropped by four per cent to 253,300 after rising by the same percentage in October last year.

Owners of properties which have laid empty for two years or more can be charged an extra 100 per cent council tax on top of their bill – rising to as much as 300 per cent if the home has been empty for a decade or longer.

Nationally, around 72,000 dwellings were subject to a council tax premium in October, around a fifth of which had been abandoned for between five and 10 years and 10 per cent for more than a decade.

In 2020-21, councils across the country identified more than 268,000 households as homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Polly Neate, chief executive of housing charity Shelter, said the country's housing emergency is ruining lives, adding that it was deeply frustrating to see properties sitting empty "when so many people are in desperate need of a safe and secure home".

She said more should be done to put empty homes back into use but added: "Even if we filled every one of these empty properties, we still wouldn't have solved the chronic housing shortage we face.

"The only way to solve the housing crisis is to build a new generation of green social housing."

A Government spokesman said more than 243,000 new homes were delivered last year, with £12 billion being invested in affordable housing over five years.

He said the number of empty homes had fallen by 30,000 since 2010, adding: “We have taken significant action to prevent empty homes.

"This includes giving councils stronger powers to increase council tax on empty homes and take over their management, and introducing higher rates of stamp duty and tightening tax rules for second homes."

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