More than a thousand homes in Blackpool have been lying empty for six months or more, figures show.
Housing charity Action on Empty Homes has warned that empty homes reveal the “stark reality” of the country’s “broken” housing market.
In September there were 1,603 long-term empty homes in the area – homes that campaigners say could be brought back into use to help families in need of social housing.
That means half of the vacant properties in the area had been sitting empty for six months or more.
In total, 3,223 properties were found by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to be “unoccupied and substantially unfurnished”.
The number of long-term empty homes has risen since 2017, when there were 1,466 such properties - an increase of nine per cent.
Action on Empty Homes campaign manager Chris Bailey said: “Empty homes are a canary in the coalmine telling us the stark reality of our broken housing market. The time to fix that is now.“Across England, 228,000 properties had been unoccupied for more than six months, up from 217,000 last year.”
Next year local authorities will have the power to double council tax on homes left empty for two years or more - a premium currently capped at 50 per cent.
In Blackpool the council charged a premium on 379 longer-term empty homes.
Blackpool council leader Simon Blackburnsaid: “There is no doubt that these properties could be put to better use.
“Long term vacant homes in Blackpool represent lost income for owners, a missed opportunity for people seeking a home but also the risk of properties falling into disrepair attracting vandalism and crime.
“Blackpool Council has developed a working group that works actively to bring empty homes that are causing a problem back into use.
“The group has developed information and advice to owners on letting empty properties, selling on the open market and securing any available grants.
“We can also encourage property owners move quicker by ensuring they have to pay council tax like other home owners.”
“Currently we give three months grace, after this time we expect the full amount of council tax to be paid.”