Number of empty council homes in Leeds nearly doubles since start of Covid

The number of Leeds council properties lying empty has nearly doubled in just two years, while thousands of families wait anxiously for a home.

By David Spereall
Friday, 22nd April 2022, 4:45 am

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Leeds City Council said that around 1.3 per cent of the 54,000 houses it owns were currently unoccupied, compared to around 0.7 per cent before Covid.

The homes in question are empty because they’re considered unfit for living in and there’ve been delays in the repairs needed to bring them up to scratch.

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Leeds City Council said that around 1.3 per cent of the 54,000 houses it owns were currently unoccupied, compared to around 0.7 per cent before Covid.

The delays themselves have been blamed on Covid, a shortage of building materials and workforce absence.

But the issue is heaping pressure on Leeds’ social housing system, with demand for council properties still extremely high, while stock has been depleted by the right-to-buy scheme.

Figures uncovered by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) last year found that 934 people had “bid” for a single home in the Halton Moor area.

Speaking at a meeting of senior councillors on Tuesday, Lib Dem group leader Stewart Golton said he was aware of some homes lying empty, or “void”, for up to eight months.

He said the issue had caused an, “Unforeseen effect in terms of being able to get care leavers into sustainable accommodation.

He added: “There’s also an impact in terms of (the council’s) income generation obviously, because we’re not getting rent from these properties which are void.

“And there’s frustration in the community.”

The council’s Labour administration acknowledged the issue, but insisted it had an “excellent” record historically on empty properties.

Officers said extra contractors had been drafted in to help speed up repairs and that they were confident the numbers would begin to fall within “four to six months”.

The council’s executive member for housing, Councillor Mohammed Rafique, said: “We are running behind with void numbers, you’re quite right.

“But I think nationally there are issues with labour market shortages. There are issues to do with sourcing building materials as well, although things may get better.

“We’re not out of Covid as well. We’ve still got staff who are calling in sick with the virus.”

Coun Rafique added: “I’m confident that in the coming months we’ll be bringing the number of voids down in the city.

“But this isn’t just a Leeds problem. Elsewhere, other places are struggling, if not worse than us.”