Shocking new figures have revealed that there are more than 2,000 homes in Northumberland standing empty.
Northumberland County Council’s data showed that there were a total of 2,176 “long term empty” (LTE) homes in the county – those that have stood vacant for more than six months.
Furthermore, 892 of those have been empty for two years or more, while one councillor said she knew of a house that had been unoccupied for more than four decades.
Blyth and Ashington have the highest proportion of LTEs in the county, with 291 in Blyth and 295 in Ashington. Between them, they make up 26% of the total long-term empty properties for the entire county.
Coun Margaret Richardson, who represents the Cowpen ward in Blyth, said she knew of one local house that had stood empty since 1982 – a total of 41 years.
Coun Caroline Ball, who represents the Ashington Central ward, called for tougher enforcement on the issue.
She said: “These houses are getting left to rot. Some have been empty since I was a kid.
“Theses issues have been going on for decades. Enforcement is a massive issue.
“If we can’t make the landlords put the housing right, we have to go down that route. It hasn’t changed in decades.
“There has got to be a better way.”
The county’s head of housing, Phil Soderquest, explained that the council has three private sector housing officers to cover the county. The team engage with landlords and can take enforcement action in a bid to reclaim properties – but this is both difficult and costly.
Mr Soderquest said: “This is a widespread issue across Northumberland, but our resources for dealing with it are pretty small. An empty home is like a broken window, it often leads to other issues and changes around it.
“Northumberland is a vast county with large numbers of empty homes. We simply haven’t got the capacity.
“The legislation doesn’t always work in our favour. Every Englishman’s home is his castle – the law doesn’t allow us to interfere with the ownership of property.
“Northumberland doesn’t have a strong history of doing large-scale demolition and clearance. We have a disproprtionate number of pre-1919 houses, and this is coupled with a high level of new builds.”
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