Bids by councils to seize empty homes are at record lows across England despite the housing crisis, research by independent estate agency James Pendleton has revealed.
The resulting figures reveal just nine seizure applications for long-term vacant homes in England in 2016.
This is despite Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) data showing there were 200,145 long-term vacant properties across the country last year.
Long-term vacant properties are those that have been empty for at least six months. Councils have the power to apply to seize those that have sat empty for two years under legislation that took effect in 2006.
But in 2016 the number of seizure applications was lower than at any point since the year the powers were introduced.
The minimal use of Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMOs) since then comes despite 137 being granted, compared with 208 applications in total.
The number of applications country-wide peaked at 41 in 2012, but has slid to an average of less than 20 a year since then.
Councils in the North have made the most applications (86) while the Midlands has performed worst with only 10 in 11 years.
There has not been a single application across the whole region since 2012.
The capital ranks second with 53, followed by the East of England with 45 and the South with 14.
In London the picture last year was even more dire. Council seizures of empty homes in the capital fell to zero in 2016 despite latest figures showing 19,845 homes sitting empty for more than six months over the year.
Only seven of the 32 London boroughs have made any applications for EDMOs at all in 11 years.
The only boroughs to have made applications are: Lewisham, Bromley, Hounslow, Kensington & Chelsea, Hammersmith & Fulham, Havering and Barking & Dagenham.
Kensington & Chelsea – scene of the Grenfell fire – had the highest number of empty homes (1,399) of any London borough last year and has made just one application since 2006.
Only 53 applications have been made by London authorities since the power took effect. A total of 19 have been granted.
Lucy Pendleton, founder director of James Pendleton, said: “This is a disgraceful waste of powers given to councils to help solve the housing crisis.
“EDMOs should be seen as a crucial tool in a country where so many families and first-time buyers are struggling to get on the housing ladder or move to suitable accommodation.
“The figures are extremely worrying for England.
“It’s even more disturbing to find that applications have dropped to zero in London, where the high cost of living and severe, long-standing imbalance between supply and demand makes use of these powers even more urgent.”