Almost 13,000 homes have stood empty for at least 10 years, new figures have revealed.
Government figures show 127,000 children face being homeless at New Year.
Yet a staggering 46,964 homes have been empty for 5 years or more and 313,792 have been empty for more than six months according to an investigation by the Liberal Democrats .
Former Lib Dem leader, Tim Farron said the figures showed a “national emergency” and demanded urgent action to alleviate the housing crisis to ensure “every child has the security of a warm bed.”
Just 21 councils – fewer than 1 in 10 – have made use of Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMO) in the past five years.
The powers allow local authorities in England and Wales to take over properties that have been empty for at least six months.
Charity Action on Empty Homes say streets in more affluent areas such as Kensington and Chelsea have been left “eerily empty” as super-wealthy property owners leave homes deliberately empty as a store of wealth.
But in other areas landlords are forced to abandon homes because they can’t afford to renovate them to sell or make them habitable for rent.
Some of the worst offending councils include Durham County Council, which has 682 homes that have been empty for over 10 years, with Rother and Manchester totalling 660 and 495 homes respectively.
Action on Empty Homes have called for a national fund to be established to support councils in bringing tens of thousands of long-term empty homes back into use through a locally focussed programme of grants and loans.
Director Will McMahon said last week: “A new national strategy can quickly bring into use thousands of empty homes for families who need them.
“Many communities are already trying to take action to bring the empty properties blighting their neighbourhoods into use, they just need government funding and council support to get the job done.”
Mr Farron added: “Communities up and down the country are being torn apart because affluent owners are treating these properties as financial assets.
“Instead, these homes could be turned into affordable places to live for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”
The Lib Dems have called for local authorities to be allowed to increase council tax by 500% where homes are being bought as second homes.
And they say a stamp duty surcharge should be levied on overseas residents purchasing such properties.
Councils can already charge an extra 50% on council tax bills for homes that have been vacant for more than two years.
From April they will be able to double council tax bills on such properties.