The Government could house tens of thousands of families if it took steps to help to bring Britain's empty homes back into use, according to a report by the RICS.

Government figures show that 1.6 million households are on council housing waiting lists at present, while 72,130 families will be living in temporary accommodation over Christmas. RICS estimates that homes for most, if not all, of these could be found if the Government were to take the appropriate steps to bring empty properties back into use.

Many homes remain empty because they are in very poor condition and the owner is unable or unwilling to spend the money to make them habitable. Once a home is empty, its condition can deteriorate quickly, pushing the cost of renovating it still higher.

Local authorities have the power to issue Empty Dwelling Management Orders on properties that have been vacant for six months or longer, but RICS is calling for the Government to make it more attractive for the owners of these empty properties to take action by reducing VAT on the renovation and repair of buildings from 15% to 5%.

The Times