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SOME 60,000 homes in England have stood empty for at least two years and councils are not using their powers to bring them back into use, according to new figures.
The statistics, obtained through a freedom of Information request by the Liberal Democrats, also show that more than 11,000 homes across the country have remained uninhabited for a decade or more.
Durham, with 6,500 empty homes, had the highest number, followed by Leeds with 5,724, Bradford with 4,144, Cornwall with 3,273 and Liverpool with 3,093.
Just one in 13 councils is making use of empty dwelling management orders, which enable local authorities to bring an unoccupied property back into use as housing.
The orders were created by the Housing Act 2004, with the legislation coming into effect in mid-2006. They allow councils in England and Wales to take over residential properties that have been empty for six months or more.
Lib Dem leader Vince Cable called on the government to review the current system, saying it was “clearly not working."
But his words rang hollow, given that he and his party were part of the Tory-led coalition government that, in 2010, changed the legislation on long-term empty homes.
And in March 2015, the Con-Dem government cut a dedicated empty homes funding programme, despite the objections of housing charities.
In December, a committee of MPs found that the number of people sleeping on the streets had increased by 134 per cent since 2011.
The Department for Communities and Local Government claims it is investing over £1 billion between now and 2020 to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping.
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