An Oxfordshire MP is calling for action to be taken on thousands of vacant homes in the area as more people are facing the new year without a home.
Figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats through Freedom of Information requests show the Vale of White Horse has 368 empty properties, Cherwell has 376 and a further 337 are unoccupied in Oxford city.
The data also shows some of the properties have been vacant for 10 years or more.
Oxford West and Abingdon MP Layla Moran said: “We all will have witnessed people sleeping out in the cold on our streets. It is a scandal that so many houses locally are sitting empty as individuals and families face 2018 without a home.”
She said that local authorities should make use of Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMO), which are used to take over properties that have been empty for at least two years.
The MP added: “But most of all the Government needs to urgently review cuts to funding. Our communities are suffering from the failure to build enough affordable homes. The impact of welfare cuts is clearly forcing more people onto our streets and leaving others in inadequate, temporary accommodation.”
Councillor Mike Rowley, board member for housing at Oxford City Council, said he strongly agrees with the MP that funding is needed to build more genuinely affordable homes.
But he said: “We have reduced the number of long-term empty homes in Oxford by nearly two-thirds, from over 900 in 2008 to 337 now. We do use EDMOs and compulsory purchase as a last resort where other means fail.”
A spokesperson from Vale and South Oxfordshire district councils said: “We are committed to bring empty properties back into use with schemes such as the empty home loan, which encourages owners to renovate their empty property by offering a five-year loan for improvement works to be undertaken. For owners that have a property empty for two years or more we increase the council tax rate by 50 per cent.”
A spokesperson for Cherwell District Council said: “The issue of empty homes is one the council continues to address. Cherwell has a dedicated empty homes project, working with homeowners to bring empty properties back into use.”
They added: “Cherwell [also] supports a range of voluntary sector agencies through grant agreements to support individuals who are homeless or unsuitably housed.”