WORRYING figures which reveal there are more than 30,000 empty homes in the region were last night described "disturbing" as thousands are on the waiting list.

Politicians and campaign groups raised concerns as it emerged the North East had seen the highest level of long-term empty homes in the country. 

It follows official figures which have revealed a staggering 31,401 homes are sitting empty, while more than half of them stood empty for six months or more.

Read more: THOUSANDS of homes in the North East are lying empty - see where is the worst

Last night, Labour MP Alex Cunningham hit back and urged the Government to take further action, including more pressure forcing investors to use their home.

The Northern Echo:

Meanwhile, Action on Empty Homes said an "escalating" housing crisis with hundreds of thousands unable to secure social housing was not helped by the huge figures.

Analysis of figures published by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities showed each council area had on average 1,320 long-term empty homes.

Speaking to The Northern Echo, Mr Cunningham said: “The problem is multi layered – some houses are inhabitable, many are left empty by investors and others may be in seriously deprived areas. 

"It is time the government acted against landlords to have houses brought up to the standard needed, put pressure on investors to use or let their properties and invested in communities to make them more sustainable and good places to live.

“But the housing crisis isn’t just about empty properties. Whilst there has been an increase in private house building, there is a real need for hundreds of thousands of homes to be built for rent but little if anything is happening.”

The Northern Echo:

Region has highest number of empty homes

Chris Bailey of Action on Empty Homes praised the efforts of councils in their work to crack down on empty homes, but said they still lacked stronger powers to take action.

He said: "The North East has long had areas with stubbornly high levels of empty homes and remains the region with the highest level of long-term empty homes in the country.

"We have recently seen positive action from councils such as Durham and Sunderland, who are working to bring empty homes into use to house those in housing need, while Newcastle City Council has also won praise for its action to fight homelessness.

"But there is still much to be done and this is complicated by councils lacking strong powers to take action against owners and landlords who are reluctant to bring homes back into use."

'The number of long-term empty homes keeps rising'

As the figures were published, Action on Empty Homes claimed the number of long-term vacant properties were now at their highest level since 2012.

It claimed that on a national level, the number of long-term homes had also gone up by almost 20 percent more, from 200,145 in 2016 to 238,086 in 2021.

Will McMahon, the group's director, said: “We have seen an escalating housing crisis while the number of long-term empty homes and second homes keeps rising.

"Today there are nearly 100,000 families and over 120,000 children stuck in overcrowded and insecure temporary accommodation because of a shortage of social housing.

"Yet over half a million homes stand empty or are used as holiday lets or so-called ‘second homes’ that don’t house anyone at all – an important issue in some parts of North Yorkshire and the North East."

Currently, councils can charge a council tax premium of up to 100 percent on properties that have been empty for two years, up to 200 percent on properties that have been empty for five years and up to 300 percent on properties that have been empty for ten years.

They can also take over the management of properties that have been empty for ten years.

'It is wrong for so many homes to be left empty'

However, Action on Empty Homes echoed comments previously made by the Local Government Association (LGA), which has called on the government to give local authorities greater powers to acquire empty homes.

A spokesman for the LGA 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.”

Read more: THOUSANDS of homes in the North East are lying empty - see where is the worst

Those figures came as it earlier this year emerged thousands of further families were living in temporary accommodation while waiting for homes, with 95,370 at the end of December 2020, up by a staggering 7,060.

Councils across the region said there are a number of reasons why homes could lie empty for so long including the owner has passed away, they are undergoing refurbishment or landlords are looking for new tenants, but said they were working to bring unused properties back into use.

'We have taken significant action'

But responding to the latest figures for the region, the Government said it had taken "significant action" in reducing the number of empty homes as it said waiting lists had fallen by almost 600,000 households since the start of the decade.

A Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson said: “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.

"As a result, number of empty homes has fallen by more than 30,000 since 2010.

"Since 2010, we delivered over 23,500 affordable homes in the North East and the region is receiving over £210 million from our new Affordable Homes Programme, helping to provide a further 4,000 homes.”


Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also follow our dedicated Teesside Facebook page for all the latest in the area by clicking here.

For all the top news updates from right across the region straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on newsdesk@nne.co.uk or contact 01325 505054