More than 700 homes in Bath and North East Somerset have been sitting vacant for at least six months.
Some 200 of them have been unoccupied for more than two years – and the worst two cases have been empty since 1994.
The empty properties are a valuable resource but they can devalue neighbouring homes and can be a magnet for antisocial behaviour and crime.
Bath and North East Somerset Council (B&NES) has some powers to bring them back into use.
It can draw up action plans, offer incentives to owners to revitalise their properties and, if the situation calls for it, can carry out a compulsory purchase.
The authority forced the sale of 10 Wellington Buildings in 2017, paying £217,500 for a home that is now back in use.
Councillor Tim Ball, cabinet member for housing, planning and economic development, said: “Empty properties left to deteriorate are a wasted asset and can quickly fall into disrepair, causing real problems for both the immediate neighbours and the wider community.
“The council is taking a firm and proactive approach to bringing empty properties back into use.
“This is as much about supporting owners who are simply overwhelmed with owning an empty property, as it is taking enforcement action against property owners whose empty homes are a nuisance but who refuse to engage with the council.
“Properties identified as being of the highest priority by the empty property officer are subject to an action plan, which allow for intensive, tailored help and support to be offered to the owner, all of which takes time – but we are getting excellent results.”
A Freedom of Information Act request showed that as of 8th May, there were 763 properties across the area that had been empty for six months or more.
There are currently two properties on the council’s long-term empty active cases list that have been empty since 1994.
A property empty since 1997 came back into use earlier this year.
B&NES Council increases tax bills by 50 per cent for owners whose properties have been empty for two years, and asks for updates on when they will be brought back into use.
It also lets them know about the financial incentives on offer.
Wessex Loans offers up to £30,000, there is up to £500 available for small works, and some will qualify for VAT relief or exemptions.
A dozen owners have taken advantage of the grants available since 2015.
Stephen Sumner, Local Democracy Reporter