THE number of empty homes in Barnsley has risen in the last decade, new figures have revealed.

Census figures from the Office for National Statistics show 5,620 of 113,625 total dwellings in Barnsley were unoccupied on census day in March 2021.

It meant five per cent of the 113,625 total properties in the area were empty - up from 4.1 per cent in 2011, when the last census was undertaken.

In England, the proportion of unoccupied dwellings has soared during the last decade, with 1.5 million empty homes littered across the country - up from 4.2 per cent in 2011.

Think-tank the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) said home shortages have increased rents and made home ownership unattainable.

It urged the building of more houses to ‘ensure everyone has access to a secure, warm and affordable home’.

Luke Murphy, associate director for energy, climate, housing and infrastructure at IPPR, said: “The shortage of homes is putting pressure on rents and pushing home ownership out of reach for many.

“Because the census took place during the pandemic, that may have contributed to the increase, but the rise means the government should look again at policies to curb or control holiday homes, short-term lets, and empty homes.”

The proportion of empty homes varied across the country - London had the most unoccupied dwellings at eight per cent, while the West Midlands had the lowest.

London also saw the largest rise over the last decade, up from just 3.5 per cent in 2011.

In Yorkshire and the Humber 149,255 of 2,477,945 total houses - the equivalent of six per cent - were empty.

Polly Neate, chief executive of housing and homelessness charity Shelter, said filling every empty property would not solve the shortage of affordable homes.

“If we can fill empty homes we should, but we will never solve the housing emergency without building a new generation of good quality social homes that local people can afford to live in,” she added.

Julia Burrows, the executive director of public health and communities at Barnsley Council, told the Chronicle they are working to bring the empty properties back into use.

She added: “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 Housing Options 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 through StreetLink.”