HUNDREDS of empty houses in Herefordshire should be used to help solve the national housing crisis, campaigners argue.

Action on Empty Homes said it is "exceptionally worrying" that more than half a million homes lie unused across England, while tens of thousands of families are living in temporary accommodation.

The campaign group's analysis of Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government figures show that 724 homes in Herefordshire were not being used as of October, down from 784 the year before.

Of these, 230 were long-term vacancies, unoccupied for at least six months, and 494 were second homes.

This means one in every 120 homes in Herefordshire were out of use – one of the lowest rates across England.

Separate figures show the number of households in temporary accommodation in Herefordshire is rising.

There were 55 households without their own homes as of September, including 63 children, which was up from 46 in September 2019.

They are among 59,400 families, including 120,600 children, in temporary accommodation across England.

Action on Empty Homes said the 531,000 properties without residents in England should instead offer "vitally needed housing" to the homeless.

Director Will McMahon said: “It can’t be right that in the last four years we have seen an escalating housing crisis while the number of long-term empty homes keeps rising.

"There are over 100,000 children languishing in overcrowded and temporary accommodation at a time when we know that overcrowded housing is being linked to the spread of the coronavirus and to higher mortality.

"It will be impossible to ‘build back better’ if we keep letting our housing crisis get worse."

A further 400,000 vacant homes across England had been used within the last six months, including 912 in Herefordshire.

An MHCLG spokesman said: “We have given councils powers and strong incentives to tackle empty homes, including the power to increase council tax by up to 300% on these properties, and take over the management of homes that have been empty for a long period.

“They also receive the same New Homes Bonus for bringing an empty home back into use as for building a new one.”