Calls for action on 34,000 empty council homes
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There are currently almost 34,000 vacant council properties in England, the highest number since 2009.

Freedom of Information requests suggest more than 6,000 of these homes have lain empty for over a year, including a number of properties in the London Borough of Lambeth that have been unoccupied for more than two decades.

In neighbouring Southwark there are also 144 flats in a disused tower block that have been vacant since 2015.

Housing campaigner Kwajo Tweneboa told Sky News: “You’ve got people sleeping on the streets. You’ve got people who are sleeping in garages and storage containers. Yet we’ve got thousands of homes sat empty, council homes up and down the country, which aren’t being used. It makes no sense whatsoever.

“The vacant homes owned by local authorities could be used to provide for rough sleepers, as temporary accommodation or long-term social housing.”

Victor Chamberlain, a housing spokesperson for the Local Government Association (LGA), said lack of funding was a key issue, with local authorities struggling to find the cash to refurbish empty properties and bring them back into use as council homes.

He added that local authorities then had to pay private landlords to provide temporary accommodation because councils “have a duty as a local authority to make sure that nobody is sleeping rough or that they don’t have a secure place to sleep each night”.

Mr Tweneboa suggested the problem was more wide-ranging.

“This isn’t an issue to be simply blamed on a lack of funding, it’s a failure to address the issue over successive years – and results in unnecessary suffering to so many I’ve met that simply want somewhere to call ‘home’.

“It’s clear that Britain faces the biggest housing crisis since the Second World War, with over a million people desperate for council houses and enough homeless kids in England to fill the O2 Arena more than seven times over – that’s 145,000 children.”

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