HUNDREDS of houses in Basildon lie empty as campaigners insist they should be used to curb a housing crisis.

Action on Empty Homes, a campaign group, analysed figures from the Ministry of Housing and found 634 homes in Basildon were not in use, up a massive 516 from the year before.

Of these, 494 were long-term vacancies, unoccupied for at least six months, and 140 were second homes.

This means one in every 125 homes in Basildon were out of use – one of the lowest rates across England.

There were 268,000 long-term empty homes across the country, 19 per cent more than the previous October, the biggest annual increase since current records began in 2004.

Kerry Smith, chairman of Basildon Council’s housing committee, said the houses could be filled quicker if legal processes, such as probate, the process were a will is proved, were streamlined.

He said: “We do have a lot of empty properties in the borough.

“It’s all very time consuming, I would dare say that most of these dwellings are due to probate, and people going into care, because that’s the other consideration.

“When people are in care it’s easier to rent the property out or leave it empty.

“But the council has done what it can to encourage more people. In spring 2019 we agreed after six months when probate has been granted, if it’s not populated in six months you pay council tax.

“We as a council had a property in Langdon Hills and we pay council tax on that.

“I think what we can do is done.”

Separate figures from the ministry show the number of households in temporary accommodation in Basildon is rising.

There were 504 households without their own homes as of September, including 673 children, which was up from 462 in September 2019.

A Ministry of Housing spokesman said: “We have given councils powers and strong incentives to tackle empty homes, including the power to increase council tax by up to 300% on these properties, and take over the management of homes that have been empty for a long period.

“They also receive the same New Homes Bonus for bringing an empty home back into use as for building a new one.”