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Britons 'want to see action on empty homes'

More than two-thirds of Britons would like to see more action taken to address the problem of empty homes, research has revealed.Some 78 per cent of people want the government to place a higher priority on tackling empty residential properties, according to a study by Halifax and campaigning charity the Empty Homes Agency.In addition, 74 per cent want their local authority to do more and one-third (36 per cent) of people said empty properties blighted their local area.Many Britons underestimate the number of such properties, believing there are on average 377,000 empty homes in England. Statistics from the Empty Homes Agency show the figure is actually more than 610,000.The agency is calling on all political parties to commit to taking action on the problem if they form the next government. It has proposed that they adopt a plan to tackle empty homes within their first year in power, as part of a broader approach to ensure housing needs are addressed.Helen Williams, chief executive of the Empty Homes Agency, said: "There appears to be widespread recognition amongst political parties of the need to build more homes - this makes perfect sense."However, we now need political parties to catch-up with public opinion and also give a priority in the future to bringing empty homes back into use to help young people and others access the housing they need, at a price they can afford."Last week, communities secretary Eric Pickles called on councils to sell vacant properties and invest the money in affordable housing.He said doing so would lead to more affordable home construction, increase supply and reduce social housing waiting lists.From April next year, councils will be required to publish the most recent valuation of their social housing stock every year to ensure it is being put to its best use. This will make them more accountable to the public, enabling people to question the management of the housing stock and see how selling vacant properties could free up funding. 

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