Councils are appealing for the owners of hundreds of empty homes in West Suffolk to bring them back into use to help meet housing demand.
Of 655 long-term empty homes across St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath, nearly 200 have been empty for at least two years while the remainder have been vacant for at least six months.
The figures were published by the two West Suffolk councils to coincide with National Empty Homes Week, which runs until Sunday.
Cllr Sara Mildmay-White, Forest Heath District Council and St Edmundsbury Borough Council cabinet member for housing, said: “We have a housing register of 2,378 people across West Suffolk.
“Some of these are people looking to upsize or downsize or move into an area. But we also need landlords to work with us to provide housing. The council simply can’t meet this need on its own.”
There are 364 empty homes in St Edmundsbury which have been empty for at least six months, of which 89 which have been empty for two years or more.
In Forest Heath there are 291 homes which have been empty for at least six months, of which 110 which have been empty for two years or more.
In Bury St Edmunds alone 25 homes have been empty for more than two years, with 12 empty in Brandon, nine in Mildenhall and 113 in villages across West Suffolk.
Now, St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath are appealing for homeowners to bring the properties back into use, offering assistance including the West Suffolk Lettings Partnership guaranteed rental scheme, Empty Homes Grants of up to £20,000 for essential works and the 150 per cent Council Tax charge on properties empty for two or more years.
“The council does have other powers to try to take over management of these properties to bring these homes back into use and although the number of empty homes has slowly been coming down in recent years, we will always keep these as an option where practical,” added Cllr Mildmay-White.
St Edmundsbury borough councillor Julia Wakelam said while the numbers of empty homes was relatively low, in theory there should not be any.
“We are so short of accommodation that people can afford, so if we can do anything to help get these houses back into use then that’s what we should do. I would support anything to help people with this issue,” she added.
For more information on the Empty Homes Grant, go to www.westsuffolk.gov.uk/housing/