MORE than two million properties in France are standing empty.
It is thought there are 11 million empty properties across the European Union - enough to house the EU’s estimated 4.5 million homeless people twice over, with plenty to spare.
Italy is said to be on a par with France, according to figures collated by British newspaper The Guardian, while the number of empty properties in Spain is 3.4 million. In Germany it is 1.8 million, and there are 700,000 vacant buildings in the UK.
The Guardian said that the latest official figures from French government research bureau INSEE show that 2.4m of the country’s homes were empty in 2012, up from 2m in 2009.
Last month MEPs passed a resolution demanding the European Commission "develop an EU homelessness strategy without any further delay", which was passed 349 votes to 45.
Freek Spinnewijn, director of FEANTSA, an umbrella organisation of homelessness bodies across Europe, told The Guardian it was a scandal that so many homes have been allowed to lie empty. "You would only need half of them to end homelessness," he said.
"The problem of homelessness is getting worse across the whole of the European Union. The best way to resolve it is to put empty homes on the market."
The paper reported that many empty homes were in large holiday complexes built during what it described as “the frenzied real estate boom that continued until the financial crisis of 2007-2008”.
It said that people who bought units at one complex in Spain, Polaris World, which comprised 2,650 apartments and a golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus, are now struggling to sell apartments for half the price at which they were bought.
It also blamed wealthy investors for buying up properties for the sole purpose of profiting from rising property prices.