Hundreds of Burnley's empty homes vacant for six months or longer

Hundreds of Burnley's empty homes have lain unused for six months or longer, figures reveal.

There were 1,726 "unoccupied and substantially unfurnished" properties in the area in September
There were 1,726 "unoccupied and substantially unfurnished" properties in the area in September

As the number of empty homes has risen alongside homelessness across England, housing reform campaigners warn that the country is in a "national housing crisis".

The latest Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government statistics listed 1,726 "unoccupied and substantially unfurnished" properties in the area in September – 983 of which have gathered dust for at least half a year.

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These "long-term empty homes" have shrunk in number since last year, when 1,046 were recorded.

The data does not include second homes or dwellings that could be refurbished.

Councils across the country can cut council tax on empty homes not marketed for sale or rent, but those vacant for at least two years risk paying up to twice their full tax bill.

The potential premium was hiked up earlier this year, having previously been capped at an extra half of the total tax due.

Across England, 299 of 317 local authorities charge a premium for some of their empty homes, with nine introducing the tax rise for the first time this year.

In Burnley, 375 properties are now subject to a premium for being empty for two years or longer. All pay the maximum 100% tax hike.

Another 369 empty homes receive a discount – including 276 exempt from council tax.

Across the country, nearly 483,000 homes sat empty at the latest count in September – 8% more than when records began in 2015.

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According to the figures, only 64,000 dwellings were subject to a discount, and fewer than 33,000 received a full tax exemption.

Of the 63,000 empty properties paying a premium, three-quarters forked out the full 100% tax hike while the remainder paid the previous premium cap level of 50%.

Will McMahon, director of housing charity Action on Empty Homes, said: "As Britain decides its future in the current General Election we once again see housing as a top issue amongst voters' concerns, yet every government housing statistic is going the wrong way.

"To see empty homes numbers shoot up for a third year alongside rising homelessness is simply unacceptable.

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"Our housing market is not delivering the housing we need. This is why we want to see hundreds of thousands of wasted empty homes brought into use for those in housing need."

The country, he added, "cannot afford" to see homes stand empty because councils lack the help to bring them back into use.

Shadow housing secretary John Healey said: "The Conservatives have failed to deal with the blight of empty properties, weakening council powers to deal with the problem and cutting regeneration funding.

"Labour will give local authorities the powers to hike council tax on empty homes, alongside a plan to build the new council and social homes needed in every part of the country."