One million homes in Britain are empty

The number of UK homes standing empty has hit one million, the highest ever level, a charity has revealed. The Empty Homes Agency reported that more than one in 20 properties have been unoccupied for six months or more, a figure described as "shocking" by homelessness charities.

"More money needs to be made available to give local authorities the manpower to make contact with the owners of empty properties to start getting these homes back into use," said Kay Boycott, Shelter's director of policy and campaigns.

"Bringing empty homes back into use is only part of the solution to Britain's housing problems. There is no substitute for the Government building the urgently needed new affordable housing that the country needs," she added.

Ms Boycott highlighted the difference between long- and short-term empty homes, adding that there are around 300,000 long-term empty homes. "Local authorities have the legal powers to bring long-term empty homes back into use, but don't have the resources to enforce these powers," she said.

The North-west and South-east of England as well as Yorkshire, Scotland and Northern Ireland are the worst-affected areas, and some local authorities have started schemes to rent out properties to people on their social housing waiting lists.

Exeter council is trying to attract landlords to let their homes out for at least five years to some of the 6,000 people currently on its list. It is offering to provide maintenance, among other services, in return for a small management fee. The landlord is also guaranteed a rent income.

The Empty Homes Agency collected data from councils and land registries and other charities to produce the figure, which excludes holiday homes.