THE difficulty of getting empty homes back into use was highlighted to Winchester city councillors.

The council estimates there are some 400 properties that have been unoccupied for more than six months, just under one per cent of the total.

Some 70 have been empty for more than three years, said Cllr Tony Coates, portfolio holder for housing, told the full council.

Housing officers dealt with four formal reports of empty homes but were unable to get any back into use.

Cllr Coates said the efforts had been expensive and futile.

City councillor Martin Tod, who formerly worked for the Shelter housing charity, urged the council to be more ambitious.

Meanwhile Cllr Jamie Scott asked how many properties in the St Luke ward, that covers Stanmore, were exempt from council tax because they were occupied by students.

The figure currently stands at 114 (or 100 band D equivalents) but is expected to rise once a backlog of student application are considered.

The council heard that the student exemption over a year would be worth some £143,310.