Hundreds of empty homes in Peterborough, figures show
Hundreds of houses and flats in Peterborough have been standing empty for at least half a year, official figures have shown.
The council reported 587 long-term vacant homes in October last year, which is roughly the same as the 2016 figure.
The data was published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, and is based on council tax records.
Pressure on the government to act on empty homes has been mounting in recent years, as the UK's housing shortage has led to a decline in home ownership and rising house prices.
If an area has a significant number of empty homes it is more likely to see an increase in vandalism, the collapse of local businesses, and experience a sense of neglect, according to research by the House of Commons Library.
The number of empty homes in Peterborough has been falling in the last few years, down 7% since 2014.
The latest figures show that the vast majority of empty properties were privately owned. But some of those left vacant were homes for social or affordable rent managed by the council or housing associations.
In Peterborough, there were 3 vacant properties owned by the council, and 79 by housing associations, a figure which includes those that had been empty for less than six months.
The Empty Homes Agency, a charity which campaigns for empty properties to be brought back into use, has found that while some homes are empty because their owners use them solely as an investment, the "buy-to-leave" phenomenon is heavily concentrated in London.
"Our research found that local authorities with higher levels of long-term empty homes tend to have lower house prices and more households on lower incomes than the rest of England", the charity's 2018 report found.
"The government has talked of the need to build 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s. We believe more could be done to generate that additional housing supply through homes that have sat empty over the long-term."
The charity also said it was concerned that the official statistics might underestimate the scale of the problem.
If a home is unoccupied, its owner will generally still have to pay council tax. Until 2013, owners of homes which had been empty for up to 12 months were automatically exempt if the property was undergoing major building work, but councils are now entitled to set their own discount and may still ask owners to pay the full rate.
In areas where local authorities still charge full council tax on empty properties there is less incentive for owners to report their property as vacant.