More empty homes being brought back into use

The number of empty homes in the borough is dropping
The number of empty homes in the borough is dropping

Hundreds of borough homes remain empty even though the number has fallen significantly.

Department for Communities and Local Government figures show there were 1,341 vacant Wigan houses in 2016.

The number standing unused has gradually fallen, with 1,644 recorded in 2015 and as many as 2,296 empty in 2010.

The encouraging picture in Wigan bucks a gloomy national trend with one in 10 councils recording their highest levels since 2010.

Wigan Council said the figures, provided through the BBC Local News Partnership, proved how much work it was doing to bring vacant properties back into use at the time of a national housing shortage.

Marie Bintley, assistant director for housing and growth, said: "When a property is empty it becomes a blot on the landscape and is at risk of attracting anti-social behaviour.

"Bringing empty homes and buildings back into use provides both much-needed affordable housing for families and individuals who really need them and visible benefits to the local community.

"We are pleased with our excellent progress on this issue and will continue our action to reduce empty homes even further in order to provide more affordable accommodation and tackle the neighbourhood problems empty homes can cause.

"The council is always willing to speak to owners of empty properties to help bring them back into use."

Wigan Council said it currently had about 300 empty social homes, or around one per cent of the stock.

The borough is also doing well on reducing the number of properties classed as long-term empty, meaning no-one has lived there for at least six months.

The 18 per cent reduction in Wigan between 2015 and 2016 was the largest in Greater Manchester and the number of long-term empty houses has gone from 2,296 in 2010 to 1,341 in 2016.

The national research shows there remain around 200,000 long-term empty properties in England.

Wigan Council said empty council houses were being repaired and re-let or earmarked for development and the town hall had also brought around 44 derelict buildings back into use through its Empty to Plenty scheme.

The local authority also levies a 150 per cent council tax rate on private sector houses which have been unused for more than two years and can buy properties causing a neighbourhood nuisance through a compulsory purchase order. These are then sold on at auction.