THOUSANDS of homes in Gloucestershire and South Gloucestershire are lying empty, despite a fall over the last six years.

Despite concerns about the lack of housing in the area, almost 3,000 homes are registered as being unoccupied.

The number of empty homes has fallen since 2010, although Gloucestershire saw a rise over the last 12 months.

Figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government show that there were 2,464 homes in Gloucestershire left empty and 321 in South Gloucestershire.

Although there is a general downward trend in the number of empty homes in the region since 2010, both Stroud and Cotswold district council have seen rises from 2015 to 2016.

In a bid to tackle the problem, the government announced plans in its budget on Wednesday to allow councils to charge double council tax on properties which have been unoccupied for two years or more.

Cotswold District Council has seen the number of unoccupied houses in its area rise in each of the last two years to 313 (compared to 430 in 2010).

A spokesman for Cotswold District Council, which shares two specialist officers with Forest of Dean and West Oxfordshire district councils, said: “Every empty house we can free up for habitation represents a huge cost saving for the three councils. 

“Additionally, we want to work much more effectively with private sector landlords so that we can make many more private rental homes available for people in need – an area where we are lacking at the moment.

“This all takes considerable time and effort but these additional resources should make everything work effectively.  

“At the moment, we have to spend a great deal of taxpayers’ money on expensive bed and breakfast accommodation for homeless families who meet the government’s statutory priority criteria.

“Typically a week’s rent for a priority need family costs hundreds of pounds, and we do have examples where the weekly bill is over £1,000. 

“Reducing these costs substantially has to be a good thing – and we welcome any further initiatives to help us reduce the number of empty homes.”

South Gloucestershire has seen the number of unoccupied homes almost half in the same period – from 582 to 321 in 2016.

A spokesman for South Gloucestershire Council said: “We are working to bring empty properties back into use to meet local housing need.

“We have an empty homes service which provides advice, support and assistance to property owners to help them bring their empty property back into use.

“People can also report an empty property to us which is having a detrimental impact on the community.

“Where necessary, we can also use enforcement powers to bring empty properties back into use.”

In Stroud district, the latest figures show that there are 477 empty homes, a small decrease from 2010’s 560.

Stroud District Council leader Steve Lydon said: “Empty homes are a wasted resource, particularly in areas where demand for housing is high.

"They also act as a magnet for crime and anti-social behaviour including squatters, vandalism, arson and rubbish dumping.

"We are proactive in our efforts to reduce empty homes and have policies in place to ensure that neglected, long term empty properties are bought back to the housing market for the benefit of the local community.

“We would encourage anyone with concerns about an empty property to report it to us through the Council’s website at"

Stroud District Council also offers people whose property has been vacant for more than 12 months an interest-free loan of up to £15,000 to bring the property back into use for affordable renting.