There are more than 27,000 empty privately owned homes in Wales, up 40% since 2009, new figures have revealed.
According to the Welsh government, £40m was distributed to councils to bring empty properties, but the scale of the problem is now being described as a “wasted resource”.
Wales has 27,213 empty private homes, figures from Data Cymru for 2018-19 showed, compared to the earliest set of available figures – 18,980 in 2009-10 – a rise of 43%
Empty homes can often attract vandalism, drug use and anti-social behaviour, while flats above shops are said to be particularly difficult to return to use.
Shelter Cymru has since said that even when councils have the powers to take over some homes to bring them back into use, they often do not for fear of “getting it wrong”.
John Puzey, director of housing charity Shelter Cymru, said: “We know when you reduce empty homes, you reduce crime and vandalism.
“We also know there are a lot of people who are desperately seeking affordable homes.
“If we can put empty homes in an appropriate place and the right conditions together with people who need them, it’s a win-win situation.”
Allan Morris, a councillor in Newport, which has more than 7,000 households looking for affordable homes and 1,199 empty private homes, said it’s “heartbreaking” in many cases that the properties can’t be used to help the homeless.
“When you’re desperate and see a premise just degenerating, it’s very difficult to understand why you can’t put two and two together, why homeless families can’t use those premises,” he added.
Commenting on the figures, the Welsh government said: “We have provided councils with £40m to help bring empty properties back into use, and we expect the number of empty homes to fall over the next two years.
“We are also improving our Houses to Homes scheme to simplify our grants and loan process and have established a new enforcement team to help councils tackle empty homes.”