As Leeds remains gripped in a housing crisis, with tens of thousands stuck on waiting lists for a home, there are still over 5,500 properties which have been lying empty for over six months, the YEP can reveal.
It’s an issue which has become a top priority for city bosses, charities and businesses as they strive to find ways to meet the increasing demand.
And this Thursday, representatives from across the public, private and third sectors will gather at the YEP’s office for the next Voice of Leeds summit - organised in partnership with the Leeds Community Foundation - to try and tackle how we can build a city for which meets housing needs now and in the future.
There are currently around 25,000 people waiting for a council property - yet only 4,500 homes, on average, are let each year, with another 1,000 nominated to housing associations.
Between January and September this year, council bosses have admitted they had over 70,000 expressions of interest in the 1,113 properties that became available.
And some of those bidding have been waiting many years for a home.
The YEP revealed last month that more than 1,600 people have been on the waiting list for a decade or longer.
Yet new figures show that in September, there were 5,552 long-term empty properties in the city - with 98 per cent of those privately-owned.
Organisations in Leeds such as Empty Homes Doctor and Canopy work to bring these houses back into use for those who need them - but they admit it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Rob Greenland, co-director of Empty Homes Doctor, said: “Sorting out 5,000 empty homes won’t give us enough homes for the city but it’s important when you think a good few hundreds homes each year are put to use.”
He said young people finding affordable homes to buy or rent is a major issue in the city, with investors still clamouring to snap up properties as a way of making money in today’s climate of low interest rates.
“There is increasing demand from investors for what would have been starter homes for people. So people are finding it harder to afford homes,” he said.
Leeds City Council is currently undergoing a city-wide consultation on its ‘Site Allocation Plan’ for where 66,000 new homes will be built by 2028.
But Rob said the infrastructure needs to be sufficient to make these new homes attractive to future residents.
“How can we grown as a city when it feels like congestion is already an issue, for example,” he said.
Steve Hoey, director of Canopy, said, while there are many good projects going on in the city - such as those organisations renovating empty homes and LILAC’s eco-housing project in Bramley - there is still much more to do.
“There are a range of players out there and between everyone we’re still not really sorting out the crisis which is that a lot of people want somewhere to live where they can afford and currently this city is not providing that,” he said.
Sally-Anne Greenfield, chief executive of Leeds Community Foundation (LCF), who will be chairing next Thursday’s summit, said: “Creating safe, sustainable and affordable homes is a crucial factor in building strong and healthy communities. LCF is proud to have supported a number of innovative community projects, which actively address local housing issues faced by our city and turn derelict properties into homes for local people. We hope this Voice of Leeds Summit will help to un-earth ideas of how we can create homes that meet the needs of our local communities, by bringing together a range of voices from the public, private and third sectors.”
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