ALMOST eight homes sit empty in Wokingham for every certified homeless person in the town.

According to information revealed through a Freedom of Information request, 884 properties were classified as unoccupied and substantially unfurnished in August this year.

Of these 315 have been empty for at least two years, 237 of which are fully furnished second homes.

In March this year a report into statuary homelessness, prevention and relief released by Wokingham Borough Council showed 114 statutorily homeless households had been accepted in the 2016/17 financial year.

That means there are 7.75 empty homes for every homeless person living in the borough.

Statutory homelessness is defined as when a person is found to be in priority need and not intentionally homeless. Under the 1996 Housing Act and the 2002 Homelessness Act, councils are duty bound to offer these people accommodation.

Councillor Julian McGhee-Sumner, executive member for environment, sports, wellbeing and housing, noted that as most of the empty homes are private property, the council has little legal power to bring them back into use.

He said: “We investigate empty homes with a detrimental impact on an area, and have legal powers to bring them back into use if appropriate. But in many cases there are good reasons why homes are empty, such as being redeveloped or refurbished, or in probate or for sale.

"We also buy properties on the open market, as well as build new ones – for example some 500 new affordable homes this year.”

An additional 50 per cent premium council tax charge is levied against all empty properties in the borough.

Wokingham Town is the ward with the most empty homes, with 200 sitting unoccupied.

Earley, with 140, had the second most, followed by Woodley's 109 and Shinfield's 89.