MOVES will be made to bring hundreds of empty homes in Swindon back into use.

The Adver reported on Tuesday that 500 homes across the borough have been lived in for six months or more.

A cross-party push asking Swindon Borough Council's cabinet to make a business case for putting more effort into preventing and recovering empty homes was given unanimous approval at a meeting this week.

Cabinet member for housing Cathy Martyn will now be required to look into giving “greater priority to this issue, to include the socio-economic impact of empty homes on local communities, together with the use of enforcement powers including compulsory purchase powers and Empty Dwelling Management Orders".

The range of powers are not all held at the housing department, so the administration is asked to look to pulling together a team to deal with empty private homes in one place under Coun Martyn’s oversight.

Conservative councillor Roger Smith said: “A report was made to the audit committee at the start of the year saying there were real shortcomings in the way this council has dealt with empty private homes.”

He said there were hundreds around the borough, adding: “There’s a house halfway up Victoria Road on the left. It’s derelict and it has become a real eyesore.

“I have been contacted by a woman who lives in Church Walk South about a house there which is empty.

"It’s the site of anti-social behaviour and crime – there have been break-ins and it attracts vermin. She has been incredibly frustrated by the lack of action.

“I think this council hasn’t done enough over the years about it. We haven’t given it the priority it needs. Empty homes cause a real problem for residents and we have let those people down.”

Seconding the motion, Labour councillor Paul Dixon said: “We have as an objective bringing 50 private homes back into use every year – but we have no way of monitoring that.

"This council has not brought any enforcement action in the last 40 years. We need to find the political willingness to make this a priority."

Coun Martyn promised the members that the housing department would be making greater efforts to address the issue of empty homes and would bring in a robust monitoring system.

Another councillor, Stan Pajak, said: “I have been involved in reporting empty houses in the past. You get interest from the officers then that drains away.

"It can be hard to get hold of the owners, and sometimes even if you can, they don’t care.

"We can threaten them with increased council tax, but they don’t seem to be bothered.”