MORE than 1,000 properties are sitting empty in St Helens each year, despite prevalence of homelessness in the area according to new figures.

Data from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities show there were at least 1,369 empty properties in St Helens at the most recent count in October.

However, this is down 19 per cent from the 1,692 which were vacant last year.

Of the empty properties, 944 had been gathering dust for six months or more, and at least 344 had been abandoned for more than two years.

This is despite figures showing in 2020-21, that 736 households in St Helens were entitled to council support after becoming homeless or being at risk of homelessness.

READ > Royal Mail responds to post delays in St Helens

Meanwhile, statistics show 533 dwellings in the area were listed as second homes last month.

The Local Government Association has called on the Government to give local authorities greater powers to acquire empty homes.

A spokesman for the LGA, which represents councils, said: “At a time when we face a chronic housing shortage across the country and high levels of homelessness, it is wrong for so many homes to be left empty."

Homeless charity Shelter has responded by saying that more radical action must be taken.

Polly Neate, chief executive of housing charity Shelter, said: "Even if we filled every one of these empty properties, we still wouldn't have solved the chronic housing shortage we face.

"The only way to solve the housing crisis is to build a new generation of green social housing."

The number of empty homes fell across England by two per cent to 468,000, while the number of second homes dropped by four per cent to 253,300 after rising by the same percentage in October last year.

A Government spokesman said: “We have taken significant action to prevent empty homes.

"This includes giving councils stronger powers to increase council tax on empty homes and take over their management, and introducing higher rates of stamp duty and tightening tax rules for second homes."