Sheltered housing units in Leeds outskirts lying empty as 'no-one wants them'

Sheltered housing units in some of Leeds’ leafy outskirts are lying empty because no-one wants them, it’s been revealed.

Despite a lengthy waiting list for social housing across the city and a shortage of properties in urban areas, people are turning down properties that are in more rural parts, like Otley.

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A lack of connectivity to other places has been cited as a possible factor, while one “gorgeous” bungalow recently went unclaimed because of a lack of disabled access, a meeting was told on Monday.

People are turning down properties that are in more rural parts, like Otley. Picture: Tony Johnson.

People waiting for a council house have to “bid”, or formally apply, for properties to express an interest and have a chance of getting them.

Speaking at a meeting of councillors from Leeds’ outer north-west ring, housing officer Richard Marshall said: “There was one in Churchill Flats in Pool (in Wharfedale).

“It’s a lovely complex but if Pool’s outside where you’re from, you won’t want a property in Pool.

“We advertise council properties for a week.

“People who are interested can put their names down. We do ask people to look into the area and to make sure they know where it is.

“But then people go down and find it’s miles out of the city and think ‘I don’t want to be there’.”

Last year, the LDRS revealed that more than 900 people had bid against each other for a single property in the Halton Moor area, while homes in Cross Gates and Bramley attracted similar levels of interest.

Around the same time a further 49 homes all attracted more than 500 separate bids.

Leeds’ social housing stock has dwindled in recent years, mainly because of the right-to-buy scheme, which allows long-term tenants to buy their properties at a massive discount.

But outside of inner city areas, there is far less demand.

Mr Marshall added: “We had seven refusals on one particular property.

“We had one in Bennett Court in Otley. We went through all of the seven people who bid for it. But if you’re not from Otley, it’s a bit out of your way.

“Sometimes there are bungalows that have inappropriate access. There was one in Guiseley and Rawdon where there was a couple of flights of steps to get to it.

“It was a gorgeous bungalow – you’d move into it tomorrow. But for someone with physical disabilities, they wouldn’t be able to access it.”

In April, it was revealed that the number of council properties lying empty across the city had doubled since the start of the Covid pandemic.

That wider issue has been blamed on problems with repairs between tenants, with a shortage of building materials and workforce absence contributing to that.