Increase in empty Leeds city centre flats, claims senior Leeds Council officer

Numbers of empty city centre and student flats in Leeds have been increasing over the past year, a senior Leeds City Council officer has said.

Thursday, 25th February 2021, 5:00 pm

The council’s service manager for private sector housing, Mark Ireland, told members of a housing board that the majority of increases in empty properties over the past year came from Headingley, Hyde Park and the city centre, and that it was believed this was due to Covid-19.

A report that went before the authority’s housing scrutiny board revealed 3,545 homes in the city were currently empty.

The number of empty homes in 2017 was 3,776.

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Flats in Leeds City Centre are currently standing empty due to Covid, a council officer has claimed. (Pic: Adobestock)

When Coun Asghar Khan (Lab) asked for data on where the highest number of empty properties were in the city, Mr Ireland said: “We have ward by ward data – we have been able to manage and monitor trends.

“We have seen a slight increase [in empty properties] over the last 12 months, predominantly due to Covid, we think – we have seen the biggest increases in city centre flats, and within the student market.

“In the biggest rises, 86 per cent have been in those markets.

“Hunslet and Riverside, and Headingley and Hyde Park are the ones, every other ward is where we would expect it to be,”

Council director Neil Evans added that the council had the power to charge double council tax on properties that had been empty for more than two years.

The meeting had met to discuss a report which stated that as much as a quarter of the city’s 70,000 privately rented homes could be suffering from excessive cold, damp, disrepair and fire safety issues.

Housing chiefs in Leeds say more is being done to punish “rogue or criminal landlords”, while helping to support good landlords – and that there should be a minimum standard tenants can expect to live in.

Mr Ireland added: “The sector should be licenced to a minimum standard because ultimately you are providing someone with a home. Not everyone will agree with that, and not every local authority will agree with that, but that has always been the position of Leeds.

“We will go an inspect (properties), we will tell (the landlords) the work that needs to be done – if they don’t do it, we keep a list of those that we know are unsuitable and we will go back and inspect them.

“If we are going to place someone in a private property, we need to make sure it meets a minimum standard.”