More than 11,000 empty properties across region

More than 11,000 properties are sitting empty across the Black Country and Staffordshire with some abandoned for more than two years, figures show.

Government data shows there were 11,193 properties empty – with at least 1,526 gathering dust for over 24 months – at the most recent count in October.

It comes as campaigners say abandoned dwellings should be re-purposed to tackle "chronic" England's housing crisis with Ministers being called on to act.

Figures from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities show there were at least 2,342 empty properties in Dudley as of October this year.

Of those, 901 had been abandoned for six months or more and at least 324 for more than two years. The figures, which cover properties subject to council tax, also show 321 dwellings in the area were listed as second homes last month.

Meanwhile, in Sandwell, the figure was 3,322 with 1,437 empty for six months or more and at least 320 abandoned for more than two years. Nine properties were listed as second homes.

In Stafford, the figure was 1,147 with 634 empty for six months or more and at least 178 abandoned for more than two years. A total of 353 dwellings in the area were listed as second homes last month.

Elsewhere in Wolverhampton, the sum was 2,495 with 1,327 of those gathering dust for six months or more, and at least 436 had been abandoned for more than two years. A total of 367 dwellings in the area were listed as second homes last month.

And in Walsall, there were at least 1,887 empty properties in Walsall at the most recent count – of those, 1,012 had been gathering dust for six months or more, and at least 268 had been abandoned for more than two years. A total of 205 dwellings in the area were listed as second homes last month.

Across England, the number of empty homes – classed as dwellings that are unoccupied and unfurnished – fell by two per cent to 468,000. while the number of second homes dropped by four per cent to 253,300.

Owners of properties which have laid empty for two years or more can be charged an extra 100 per cent council tax on top of their bill – rising to as much as 300 per cent if the home has been empty for a decade or longer.

Nationally, around 72,000 dwellings were subject to a council tax premium in October, around a fifth of which had been abandoned for between five and 10 years and 10 per cent for more than a decade.

A spokesman for the Local Government Association, which represents councils, 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."

Polly Neate, chief executive of housing charity Shelter, said the country's housing emergency is ruining lives, adding that it was deeply frustrating to see properties sitting empty "when so many people are in desperate need of a safe and secure home".

She said more should be done to put empty homes back into use but added: "Even if we filled every one of these empty properties, we still wouldn't have solved the chronic housing shortage we face.

"The only way to solve the housing crisis is to build a new generation of green social housing."

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.

"This includes giving councils stronger powers to increase council tax on empty homes and take over their management, and introducing higher rates of stamp duty and tightening tax rules for second homes."

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