YORK is amongst the best areas in the country for the number of homes standing empty, according to new national figures.

The City of York Council area ranks third in a survey of English local authorities by campaigning charity the Empty Homes Agency, with just 159 homes - or 0.19 percent of properties in the city - standing empty in the long term.

The city is the only northern area to feature in the top 20 local authorities according to the figures, and is outdone by only the Isles of Scilly and Crawley Borough Council.

And the figures - which are taken from council tax registers - show that in the year up to October 2013 the number of empty properties in the city fell by 10.

The charity's Chief Executive Helen Williams said: "Great strides have been made in reducing the number of homes that remain empty, but in some areas the numbers are on the rise again and with around one and a half million households on council waiting lists we cannot afford to take our eye off tackling the national waste of empty homes.

"The housing crisis looks set to be a key battle ground in next year’s general election and we hope that all political parties compete to come up with creative initiatives to tackle empty homes, otherwise we risk a slide back to the bad old days when we were reporting that long-term empty homes topped 300,000.”

City of York Council employ an Empty Property officer to help owners bring their properties back into use, and an Empty Property Strategy. It also maintains its own list of long term empty properties that may not show up on the official council tax register statistics.

Elsewhere in North and East Yorkshire, the East Riding of Yorkshire has just under 2,000 homes or 1.3 percent of properties empty, while Selby has just 296 homes or 0.81 percent - a fall of 201 homes in the year up to October 2013.

In Ryedale, the number of empty homes fell by 49 in the year between October 2012 and October 2013, to 280 or 1.15 percent of the district's housing stock.