More than 1,000 properties are sitting empty in the Braintree district each year, while households in the area continue to be faced with homelessness, figures show.

Government figures show there were at least 1,354 empty properties in the district in October – up 12 per cent from 1,214 last year.

Of those, 618 had been gathering dust for six months or more, and at least 219 had been abandoned for more than two years.

The figures, which cover properties subject to council tax, also show 198 dwellings in the area were listed as second homes last month.

Different Government figures show in 2020-21, 450 households in Braintree were entitled to council support after becoming homeless or at risk of homelessness.

The Local Government Association has called on the Government to give local authorities greater powers to acquire empty homes.

A spokesman for the LGA, which represents councils, said: “At a time when we face a chronic housing shortage across the country and high levels of homelessness, it is wrong for so many homes to be left empty."

Campaigners say abandoned dwellings should be used to tackle England's housing crisis, after councils across the country recorded hundreds of thousands of empty homes.

Polly Neate, chief executive of housing charity Shelter, said the country's housing emergency is ruining lives, adding that it was deeply frustrating to see properties sitting empty "when so many people are in desperate need of a safe and secure home".

A Government spokesman said more than 243,000 new homes were delivered last year, with £12billion being invested in affordable housing over five years.

He said the number of empty homes had fallen by 30,000 since 2010, adding: “We have taken significant action to prevent empty homes.

"This includes giving councils stronger powers to increase council tax on empty homes and take over their management, and introducing higher rates of stamp duty and tightening tax rules for second homes."