Campaigners say abandoned dwellings should be repurposed to tackle England’s housing crisis, after councils across the country recorded hundreds of thousands of empty homes.
Figures from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities show 1,077 empty properties in Mansfield at the most recent count in October – down 14 per cent from 1,256 last year.
Of those, 709 had been gathering dust for six months or more, and at least 201 had been abandoned for more than two years.
The figures, which cover properties subject to council tax, also show 71 dwellings in the area were listed as second homes last month.
Different DLUHC figures show in 2020-21, 193 households in Mansfield were entitled to council support after becoming homeless, or at risk of homelessness.
Coun Marion Bradshaw, Mansfield Council portfolio holder for housing, said: “The council believes every empty property is a wasted resource and we recognise these properties can cause blight to an area.
“In 2019, on the back of new government legislation, we introduced a 200 per cent council tax rate on properties empty for two years to five years.
“This rises to 300 per cent for properties empty for more than five years and to 400 per cent for those empty for more than 10 years.
“While there did initially appear to be a fall in properties empty for more than two years in 2019 compared with 2018, after the introduction of these higher rates, the number rose last year and this year.”
Figures show the number of empty homes facing a tax premium dropped from 157 in 2018 to 136 in 2019, before rising to 142 in 2020 and 201 this year.
Coun Bradshaw said: “We cannot be sure why, but we can’t rule out the effects of the Covid pandemic and lockdowns, in delaying probate agreements for the properties of residents who have died, for example.
“Shortages in the construction sector this year could also mean it is taking longer to renovate empty properties before putting them up for sale.
“As a council, we use what powers we have to try to help bring problematic empty properties back into occupation and over the last two years, we have helped return 18 problematic or long-term empty properties into use.
“In the first instance, we offer the owners information, advice and support. It’s a sensitive subject. Often these premises have emotional value to their owners who may have inherited their childhood home from their parents, for example, and it can be a wrench for them to just sell it after their parents have died.
“If we cannot engage with owners, the council can take further action.
“This may include issuing an enforcement notice to improve appearance of a property, through to enforcing its sale, or, as a last resort, its compulsory purchase by the council.
“Fortunately, this last action is extremely rare.”
A Government spokesman said more than 243,000 new homes were delivered last year, with £12 billion being invested in affordable housing over five years.
He said the number of empty homes had fallen by 30,000 since 2010, adding: “We have taken significant action to prevent empty homes.”