There are enough empty homes in England to meet 72% of the new homes target

Meanwhile more than a million families are on waiting lists for council housing

The number of empty homes grew by nearly 11,000 properties last year, the fastest rise since the recession.

It brings the total to 216,000 long-term empty homes in England – which is more than 72 per cent of the government’s annual new homes target. There are currently more than a million families stuck on local authority waiting lists for social housing.

Research by campaigners Action on Empty Homes (AEH) in conjunction with Nationwide Building Society showed that the 2018 rise of 5.3 per cent was double that of the rise seen the previous year.

AEH director Will McMahon said: “With homeless numbers at their highest levels in over a decade, it makes no sense to leave hundreds of thousands of homes standing long-term empty.”

Every region in England saw a rise in the number of empty houses last year, except the North East which fell by 1 per cent – though that’s also where the issue is proportionately most prevalent, with one in every 72 homes left empty long-term.

As well as cutting down the number of already-scarce available housing, AEH said homes left empty for a long time whatever the reason always had a negative impact on the local community, placing a burden on local services and attracting crime and vandalism.

The report also identified 252,000 ‘second’ homes with no permanent residents, with many falling into dereliction or in the hands of absentee owners who have multiple properties.

Researchers went as far as to say that as well as exacerbating the housing crisis, the poor collection of second home data was resulting in “property hoarding for wealth storage, as well as tax evasion and money laundering”. They called on the government to introduce a national property register to be linked to a national landlord register, which was proposed by the government in 2009 but never implemented.

Nationwide chief executive Joe Garner said: “Concerted action and funding are needed from government and the housing sector to identify and tackle the growing issue of empty homes.

“It’s a missed opportunity that there are 200,000 empty properties that could house people desperately needing a home of their own.”

There are empty homes across all council tax bands, but appear most frequently in both the most expensive and cheapest categories.

The Big Issue knows just how important it is to make the most of the homes we have in the fight to end homelessness. Our Fill ‘Em Up campaign kicked off in 2015 to do just that.

Since then, the government has attempted to crack down on second homes by taxing home owners.