A FAMILY living in a two bedroom council flat is asking why they cannot have one of Swindon’s 2,139 private empty homes.

Susan Sarson, Kris Allen, and their three children, Ashley, five, Katherine, three, and Thomas, two, say they are fed up with bidding on hundreds of homes after waiting three-and-a-half years on the council’s housing waiting list.

“All my kids are in the same room and are squashed in together,” she said.

“No child should have to live in these circumstances in a country like Britain in this day and age.

“It severely affects our family and our life having to live in such close quarters, it is a major stress for us all.

“We are not picky we just want suitable accommodation.

“Why are there so many empty homes and so many people on the waiting list?

“We have bid on 400 homes over the three-and-a-half years.

“Meanwhile these homes sit empty and blight neighbourhoods across Swindon – how is this right?”

The family’s circumstances come days after the Advertiser published statistics showing that Swindon’s housing waiting list has almost tripled in the last 10 years, something which has left 8,363 people living in temporary accommodation.

Councillor David Renard, Swindon Council’s cabinet member for health, housing and adult social care, says the council house waiting list and the number of private empty homes are a problem.

But, he said, the council is doing everything in its power to contain the numbers.

“It is a problem and it needs to be addressed,” he said.

“If the Government were to give us the resources to buy these houses then we would be happy to.

The council does have power to bring empty houses back into use by compulsory purchase orders.

“But the problem is that there are so many legal loopholes involved that it becomes very time consuming.”

Councillor Maurice Fanning (Lab, Gorse Hill and Pinehurst) said: “Compulsory Purchase Orders are something that we should use more often than we do.

“Because people who live by these homes are saying themselves that there are more than 8,000 people on the housing list.

“This is beyond the political divide. We are dealing with people’s lives here.”

The housing charity Empty House Association, which said there were 2,139 empty homes, says the number of vacant homes in Swindon has climbed 19 per cent in the past five years.

Henry Oliver, the group’s policy advisor, said: “An area like Swindon, which has big growth plans at the moment, should be making sure it has brought all its long-term empty houses back into use before it builds any new ones.”

The number of empty houses in Swindon include homes which are undergoing alterations, repairs and second homes.