MORE than 4,000 homes across Oxfordshire are currently lying empty and unused according to the latest government data.

A total of 4,349 homes across the county are currently recorded as “unoccupied and substantially unfurnished” according to data from the ministry of housing, communities and local government.

Of these homes, 1,944 have remained empty for at least six months, and are classed as long-term empty homes.

The data can be broken down by district council area.

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Across the county there are: 412 long term empty homes in Oxford (out of a total of 902 unoccupied homes), 465 in West Oxfordshire (out of a total of 947), 317 in the Vale of White Horse (out of a total of 628), 426 in South Oxfordshire (out of a total of 806), and 324 in Cherwell (out of a total of 1,066).

The data does not include second homes or dwellings that could be refurbished.

The figures have been published as plans to bring empty homes in West Oxfordshire back into use have taken a step forward.

The proposals to bring properties which have been empty for more than six months into use were discussed and approved by West Oxfordshire District Council’s cabinet on Wednesday, November 13.

A report to the cabinet said the five-year strategy would try to bring homes classed as long-term empty back into use.

The strategy would also seek to maintain a list of the long-term empty properties in West Oxfordshire and provide advice and information to help raise awareness about empty properties.

Speaking ahead of the cabinet meeting, council leader James Mills said the new strategy was just one of a number of measures the authority was taking to tackle the housing crisis locally.

Mr Mills said: “Anyone who lives in Oxfordshire will know it is an expensive part of the country to live in and as a council we have been looking at the different ways we can assist people have a safe and secure home.

“There is no single silver bullet to solve the housing problems that are faced locally.

“This policy is another way for us to get more housing into use.”

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The report said there would be a four-stage approach to bringing empty houses back into use.

This would start with finding out which homes are empty, then the property owner would be given advice on how they could bring it into use as a rented home.

The council would then monitor the progress of bringing the property into use by giving the homeowner a deadline to get it done.

If the owner did not bring it back into use, then as a last resort the council would ‘use enforcement powers’ to stop it being an empty home.

These powers include the ability to compulsory purchase the empty house.

Will McMahon, of the charity Action on Empty Homes, has called for houses which are empty to be brought back into use as the housing market cannot solve the crisis on its own.

The empty homes include those out of use due to due to will disputes or lack of finances for repairs.