More than 1,000 homes across the borough are lying empty, according to a new survey.

The latest figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government has found 1,114 homes, including 930 privately-owned properties and 50 council homes, are empty in Kingston.

The figure is a significant jump from 2006, when there were only 205 empty homes in the borough.

Councillor Penny Shelton, executive member for housing at Kingston Council, said she was shocked by the figures but would strive to ensure empty homes were filled.

She said 32 of the 50 empty council homes had strategies in place to bring them back to use, but some were uninhabitable because major refurbishment work was needed.

Coun Shelton said Kingston actively worked with private landlords through the Private Leasing Scheme which encourages landlords to rent private properties to the council and had tightened the rules on council tax reductions for empty properties by only offering owners a 10 per cent discount.

She said: “Kingston is currently collaborating with other south west London [boroughs] in a drive to get a better picture of empty homes in the borough.

“Providing funding is available, we will increase the work currently being undertaken so that the boroughs share experience on how to reduce the number of empty homes.”

Mark, 41, from Kingston has been homeless for six years after losing his job and partner.

He said more should be done to offer empty homes to vulnerable people on the streets.

“I can’t believe there are so many homes lying empty when there are people like me struggling to get a roof over their heads.

“It’s terrible to think there are people in need but there are homes going begging.”

David Ireland, chief executive of the Empty Homes Agency, said the recession had caused vacancy levels to soar as development and regeneration projects grind to a halt.

He said there are already nearly 700,000 homes lying empty in the UK and predicted this level could rocket in 2009.

“It is more important than ever that councils use their powers to help housing associations redirect their investment towards purchasing and repairing empty homes, and owners make their property available for short-term use,” he said.

“Unless we take action now we are on course for over a million empty homes in the UK at a time of record housing need.”