The number of empty homes has risen in Swindon.

Figures supplied by Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government figures show that 873 homes in Swindon were not being used in October – up from 721 the year before.

Of these, 699 were long-term vacancies – unoccupied for at least six months – and 174 were second homes.

This means one in every 113 homes in Swindon were out of use – though this was below the average of one in 47 across England.

Director of Action on Empty Homes 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 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."

Swindon Borough Council has a small team responsible for getting houses back into use, working with property owners.

Cabinet member for housing Cathy Martyn said: “Homes which are empty long term can attract antisocial behaviour, devalue neighbouring properties and negatively impact the wellbeing of their neighbours and residents.

“Bringing long-term empty homes back into use has often been a slow, painstaking process. Recently our empty homes officer has achieved really positive outcomes and we will continue to target as many vacant homes as we can.”

But some members of the council feel more could be done to force owners of empty houses to make them useable again.

Conservative councillor Roger Smith said no enforcement action had been taken for nearly 40 years: “It hasn’t been a high enough priority for the council. If we as a council can do something about it, then I think we should.”

The Labour group’s spokesman for housing Paul Dixon said: “I think we should be doing more, working with the owners to bring the houses back into use.

“The council has the power to charge an extra 200 per cent council tax on houses that have been empty for a long time – and I think that’s a good deterrent – it’s a good place to start.

“But we can use things like empty dwelling management plans and enforcement orders and compulsory purchases.”

The council says it wants people who know of a house that is empty long-term to report it.

Empty properties can be reported to the council at its website at – enter empty property in the search bar on the home page.