Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Leeds empty homes disgrace

17,557 homes empty - 25,000 on waiting list, why?

It’s a scandal of shocking proportions – 17,557 homes currently stand empty and unused across Leeds, according to official government figures released in February 2009. That means more homes stand empty in Leeds than any other city outside London and Leeds has the highest proportion of empty properties than anywhere else in the country, making it the UK’s empty homes capital.

City Island - Half Empty

The vast majority of the empty homes (15,297) are privately owned and a large proportion are believed to be the one or two bedroom so-called 'yuppie' flats that have mushroomed in the city centre like City Island (see left). These were built during the city's boom years but are now un-sellable because of the credit crunch. The figures also show 1,979 empty properties in the city are local authority owned and 281 are owned by registered social landlords.

Incredibly the current Tory-Lib Dem Council is refusing to use its legal powers ( called ‘empty dwelling management orders’ or Edmos) to take over homes that have been left empty for more than 6 months and let them out. In Leeds, some 6851 private homes have been left empty for more than 6 months. Despite 25,000 people on the housing waiting list desperate for an affordable home, the Council won’t intervene, citing costs and, incredibly, a belief that such measures would “spook the market”. In a recent interview with the Yorkshire Evening Post, housing honcho Councillor Les Carter stated:

"Serving Edmos on owners of empty properties in the city centre in Leeds might cause a glut of these units to be put on the market for sale – potentially resulting in an accelerated downturn in the market price."

Les Carter
- Completely Empty!

So the Council won’t turn empty flats into real homes to meet need because it wants to protect investors—ordinary people can go to hell. It’s all about protecting private property and the rich. Tellingly, the only group to come out and support the Council’s position is the bloody Landlords Association!

David Ireland, chief executive of campaigning charity, the Empty Homes Agency, slammed Councillor Carter’s comments in a letter to the YEP, Ireland explained that the Empty Dwelling powers were not costly, owners could not easily avoid them and that “ruling out one of the best ways of getting homes back into use is surely just self-defeating dogma.” He added:

But what really takes the biscuit is his notion that EDMOs will "spook the housing market". What does he think a housing market with 17,557 empty homes is, if it's not spooked already?

The council's job is surely not to try to prop up artificially-inflated property prices, but to ensure that people who live in Leeds have access to decent housing.

Cllr Richard Lewis who is Labour’s Deputy Leader and spokesperson for housing backed the Empty Homes Agency and criticised the Council’s attitude as “laughable”.


Leeds Empty Homes Facts

FACT: There are 17,557 empty homes in Leeds
FACT: Leeds has more empty homes than anywhere outside London but highest ratio of empty homes in country
FACT: The Council has powers to take over empty homes but refuses to use them
FACT: 6851 private homes have been left empty for more than 6 months
FACT: 8 Leeds families are made homeless everyday due to repossession and eviction
FACT: Mortgage repossessions levels are now over 300% higher than a few years ago, while landlord evictions are at their highest rate for five years.
FACT: 24,444 on Leeds housing waiting list
FACT: The Council is demolishing homes across the city
FACT: Recently, 6000 people were bidding for just 500 available council properties per month, an average of 50 people per home
FACT: Hands Off Our Homes is standing up for communities under threat, campaigning to end the empty homes scandal and for new council housing