LONG-TERM empty homes in Gloucestershire are on the rise, against the national trend.
Almost 3,000 homes were empty for more than six months in 2013 - up by nearly 500 the previous year.
The figures were revealed in analysis from charity the Empty Homes Agency, and show that in more than a third of English local authorities the number of homes that have been empty for more than six months is on the rise.
This bucks the national trend where the number of long-term empty properties has fallen to 232,600 out of 635,127 empty properties as a whole. The charity has issued a warning that if this trend is not nipped in the bud it could threaten the successes of recent efforts to tackle the waste of empty homes.
In Gloucestershire there were 2,951 long term empty homes in the year to October 2013 - 477 more than the previous year.
Stroud’s vacant homes figures went up the most from 573 to 733.
Cheltenham’s rose from 343 to 434, in the Cotswolds from 237 to 320, in the Forest of Dean from 535 to 556, from 507 to 546 in Gloucester, and in Tewkesbury from 279 to 362.
There are rising numbers of empty homes in 116 local authority areas, including in some buoyant housing markets.
Helen Williams, chief executive of the Empty Homes Agency, said: “Great strides have been made in reducing the number of homes that remain empty, but in some areas the numbers are on the rise again and with around one and a half million households on council waiting lists we cannot afford to take our eye off tackling the national waste of empty homes.”
“The housing crisis looks set to be a key battle ground in next year’s general election and we hope that all political parties compete to come up with creative initiatives to tackle empty homes.”
Debbie Young, former cabinet member for housing on Stroud District Council, was concerned at the figures for Stroud.
“I am really shocked because a lot of work went in to driving down the number of vacancies,” she said.
“When I was cabinet member we did a lot on this. A lot are related to probate, and we tried to get people on those positions to rent out their homes on short term lets.”
Gloucester City Council leader Paul James said there would always be a small number of empty homes - otherwise the housing market would not move.
“There are some exceptions, and the council has taken action - for example in Bristol Road where we threatened to use our compulsory purchase powers to get the house back to how it should be,” he said.