OWNERS of the thousands of homes lying empty in Bolton are being helped to bring them back into use to help solve the housing crisis.

Action of Empty Homes says 2,238 homes in Bolton were not being used as of October, up from 2,010 the year before ­— according to its analysis of Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Of these 1,689 were long term vacancies, unoccupied for at least six months, and 549 were second homes.

This means one in every 56 homes in Bolton were out of use – though this was below the average of one in 47 across England.

A spokesperson for Bolton Council said:“Figures on the number of empty homes fluctuate every quarter, with new ones becoming empty and others being occupied.

“We encourage the owners of long-term empty properties to consider all available options, with a view to making use of these valuable resources and ensuring they are occupied.

“The council is continuing its work to bring more empty homes back into use and operates a number of schemes to help owners, which includes linking up owners with investors, as part of its match maker scheme.

“Landlords or homeowners can find out more about the help available by contacting the Housing Standards Team on 01204 338912 or e-mailing housingstandards@bolton.gov.uk.”

From last April a property which has been empty for two years will face extra council tax charges ­— up to three times as much.

Separate figures from MHCLG show the number of households in temporary accommodation in Bolton is rising.

There were 195 households without their own homes as of September, including 116 children, which was up from 179 in September 2019.

They are among 59,400 families, including 120,600 children, in temporary accommodation across England.

Action on Empty Homes said it is "exceptionally worrying" that more than half a million homes lie unused across England, while tens of thousands of families are living in temporary accommodation.

There were 268,000 long-term empty homes across the country – 19 per cent more than the previous October, the biggest annual increase since current records began in 2004.

A further 263,000 are classed as second homes which are not in residential use long-term, and are not charged extra council tax when they are unused.

Action on Empty Homes said that the 531,000 properties without residents should instead offer "vitally needed housing" to the homeless.

Director Will McMahon said: “It can’t be right that in the last four years we have seen an escalating housing crisis while the number of long-term empty homes keeps rising.

"There are over 100,000 children languishing in overcrowded and temporary accommodation at a time when we know that overcrowded housing is being linked to the spread of the coronavirus and to higher mortality.

"It will be impossible to ‘build back better’ if we keep letting our housing crisis get worse."

Housing charity Shelter's Chief executive Polly Neate said: "Tackling these empty homes is not an adequate alternative to building more genuinely affordable housing.

"We could fill every one of these properties and we still wouldn’t have solved the chronic housing shortage we face."

A further 400,000 vacant homes across England had been used within the last six months, including 1,981 in Bolton.

An MHCLG spokesman said: “We have given councils powers and strong incentives to tackle empty homes, including the power to increase council tax by up to 300% on these properties, and take over the management of homes that have been empty for a long period."

“They also receive the same New Homes Bonus for bringing an empty home back into use as for building a new one.”

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