EMPTY houses in Huntingdonshire could be taken over to help reduce the number of homeless people and families on housing registers. The district council's cabinet will decide in principle to-morrow (Thursday) whether to take compulsory purchase powers if property owners do not make homes available for sale or rent. Council officers are particularly targeting two homes in Huntingdon and two in St Neots, the owners of which have failed to respond to persuasion, but the principle could be extended to any home in the district left unoccupied for a long period. Powers can be used only as a last resort, where there is no other prospect of a property being brought back into residential use. If HDC decides to go ahead, it would have arranged in advance to sell the houses to either a private developer or a registered social landlord, such as the Luminus Group. Officials calculate that it would cost £21,625 plus the purchase price to buy a home valued at £125,000 by the official district valuer. This would include £4,000 for a public inquiry if the owner objected to the compulsory purchase, and more than £9,000 in home loss compensation to the owner. Because the compensation is a proportion of the value of the property, the total costs would rise with the valuation. HDC says the four long-term empty properties have defied the best efforts of environmental health and housing officers to get them back into occupation.