THOUSANDS of homes will be empty in Barnsley in the new year - despite dozens of people readying themselves to face biting temperatures on the town’s streets and more than 8,000 being on the council’s waiting list.
The new figures, which have been labelled ‘shocking’ by campaign group Action on Empty Homes, show at least 1,011 homes liable for council tax in Barnsley were unoccupied for at least six months at the most recent count.
It means the number of homes empty for at least half a year has increased from 999 in 2021, but the figure fell 44 per cent compared to 1,802 in 2012.
The properties deemed long-term empty were among a total of 2,597 vacant homes counted in Barnsley in October.
Owners of properties empty for two years or more can be charged an extra 100 per cent council tax on top of their bill rising to as much as 300 per cent if the home has been empty for a decade or longer.
Across England, there were 676,500 vacant properties at the latest count.
The figures come just weeks after it was revealed that Barnsley Council spent £390,000 on temporary homeless housing in the year to March - up significantly from £205,000 the year before - and there being 8,382 people awaiting a council house.
Various types of housing including that provided by a private landlord accounted for a significant amount of spending with £198,000 paid 51 per cent of the total expenditure for temporary accommodation last year.
A further £107,000 went towards housing people in bed and breakfasts in the area.
Last year’s spending is also higher than the amount spent five years ago when £173,000 was put towards temporary homeless accommodation equating to a real-terms increase of 100 per cent.
Chris Bailey, national campaign manager for Action on Empty Homes, said: “After more than a decade of intense housing crisis it is shocking to see long-term empty homes in England rise to 250,000 another 11,000 more wasted empties, while nearly 100,000 families are trapped in temporary accommodation, costing the nation over £1.5bn a year.
“A new national empty homes programme is long overdue the government needs to step up to the plate and offer funding and incentives to get these homes back into use.”
He added that long-term empty homes are a ‘huge missed opportunity’ to create new jobs through low-carbon retrofitting.
Julia Burrows, executive director for public health and communities, told the Chronicle: “There are lots of different reasons why a property becomes empty and stays empty, including financial difficulties, personal reasons or the owners sadly passing away.
“Our housing and community safety team helps people bring their empty properties back into use, offering free, tailored support to help them with the barriers they face.
“For example, they run a leasing scheme for empty properties, working with a local housing provider to provide safe and affordable homes for our team.
“Housing options work closely with people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, offering them the support they need to build a better future.
“This is just one of the ways the team works to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping in our borough.
“They’re adopting innovative approaches to get homeless people the support they need, such as our new Intensive housing-led support team, which helps people to manage their own homes.
“There are lots of ways you can help make sure people sleeping rough in Barnsley get help and support, including reporting your concerns to us.”
Separate figures show 94,870 households were in temporary accommodation at the end of June including 42 in Barnsley.
And between April and June, 162 Barnsley households were entitled to support after becoming homeless or being put at risk of homelessness, putting them among 69,180 across England.