A Liberal Democrat investigation has revealed 13,000 homes nationwide have been left vacant for over 10 years, including 187 across the city of Bristol.
The news comes despite devastating new government statistics which reveal 127,000 children across England face being homeless at New Year.
Former Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, has declared a "national emergency" and demanded urgent action to alleviate the housing crisis to ensure "every child has the security of a warm home."
The figures collated from over 300 local authorities, uncovered by Liberal Democrat freedom of information requests, also reveal there are a staggering 46,964 homes that have been empty for 5 years or more while there are 313,792 long-term empty homes [defined as over 6-months] across the country.
Bristol has 187 of homes empty for 10 years or more, 458 empty for 5 years or more and a total of 2,320 currently considered to be long-term empty.
However, the Liberal Democrat investigation revealed that only 21 councils - fewer than 1 in 10 councils - across the country have made use of Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMO) in the past five years. These are the powers used by local authorities to take over properties that have been empty for at least six months*. Bristol City Council has not used EDMOs despite having 2,320 long-term empty homes.
As part of the party’s plan to alleviate the housing crisis, the Liberal Democrats are calling for legislation to allow local authorities to increase council tax by up to 500% where properties are being left vacant long-term. The revenues would then be used to build new homes for the community or to invest in local services.
Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron said:
“It is impossible to imagine how hard it is, especially at this time of year, for the tens of thousands of children struggling to get by without somewhere to call home.
"This housing crisis is a national emergency. Tory Ministers should hang their heads in shame. Urgent action is needed now to ensure every child has the security of a warm home."
Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Bristol West James Cox said:
"Communities up and down the country, including our own, are being torn apart because affluent owners are treating these properties as financial assets.
"Instead, these homes could be turned into affordable places to live for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
“People deserve better. That's why Liberal Democrats are demanding councils are given the powers and resources we set out in our manifesto to bring empty homes back into use."