A senior opposition councillor is calling on Leeds council bosses to do more to tackle the “stubborn core” of 5,000 properties lying empty in the city.
Councillor Barry Anderson, the Conservative shadow spokesman for housing, said that despite the council’s efforts, recent figures showed the city had the second highest number of empty properties in the country at 5,724.
The figures, released by the Liberal Democrats as part of a Freedom of Information request earlier this week, revealed that more than 216,000 homes across the country have been empty for six months or more.
A staggering 11,000 homes have been empty for 10 years or more, leading Lib Dem leader Vince Cable to call it a “national scandal” at a time when the country is in the grips of a wider housing crisis.
Leeds was only second to Durham in terms of empty home numbers.
Councillor Anderson said today: “According to these figures Leeds is the second worst area in the country out of all those who provided information on their total number of empty properties. I know that the council has made progress on this issue, and has a number of schemes aimed at bringing the number down – but nevertheless these figures should be a wake-up call.
“At a time when all parts of the country are facing rising levels of homelessness, we cannot afford to have thousands of properties lying abandoned and unused for at least six months. It’s time for some innovative thinking to see how we can reduce the number and bring more properties back into use.
“A report from 2015 showed that Leeds had 5,500 homes lying empty. That figure seems to have gone up by another 200 properties since then. The Council needs to take more decisive action to crack that stubborn core of 5,000 empty properties that could be put to much better use.”
Leeds City Council has made bringing empty homes back into use one of its key housing priorities in recent years.
As the second-biggest local authority in the country, its numbers will generally be high compared to others.
But the authority is currently undertaking what it says is a “wide ranging empty homes scheme”.
Work has included buying back empty ex council houses previously sold under Right to Buy, and working with organisations like Canopy, GIPSIL, LATCH and the Empty Homes Doctor.
Councillor Debra Coupar, executive member for communities, previously talked about how the authority was working closely with the third sector to make the most of the city’s empty properties.
In the space of five years, the number of empty homes in Leeds had been reduced by 3,000, she said, adding that within the local authority’s own housing stock, the number of empty houses had fallen year by year since 2004.
“We always need some empty properties in Leeds as this turnover helps to keep the housing market moving,” she said.
“However, our focus will remain those properties that lie empty for more than six months and that cause a blight on communities.
“With continued investment, we can turn around empty properties to provide much needed homes.”