Thousands of empty Leeds properties brought back into use
Thousands of previously empty properties are now homes to families across the city, thanks to the ongoing work and investment by Leeds City Council.
As part of national Empty Homes week (1 – 5 December) Leeds City Council is raising awareness of the assistance and initiatives available to help bring the city’s empty properties back into use.
The council has introduced a number of schemes over the last five years, to help private owners bring their empty properties back in to use, as well as turning previously empty properties into social housing. These initiatives have resulted in reducing the number of long term empty properties by nearly 2,000 to 4,747 since 2010. The council has also been able to help reduce the total number of empty properties from 16,700 in 2010 to 13,573 as at 31 March 2014.
Councillor Peter Gruen, executive member responsible for neighbourhoods, planning and support services said:
“Bringing empty homes back into use is a top 10 priority for the council and over the past two years the council has invested significant funding to support work achieve this.
“We know these properties can cause a blight to local communities and with so many people needing affordable housing it is a great way to make sure more families can get a home which is a decent standard. It is a ‘win win’ for all concerned.
“By looking at innovative ways to invest, working with social enterprise organisations and forging close links with the private rented sector we can work together to bring these much needed houses back into use.”
One such project has been a partnership with a Leeds based social enterprise; Leeds Empties to develop- innovative ways of bringing empty homes back into occupation. To help support this on-going work the council agreed to support Leeds Empties with funding of £100k.
The investment was used to expand the ‘Empty Home Doctor Service’, to develop a one-stop website for owners of empty properties, and to look at new funding options to help address empty homes. Following the success of the pilot the council has now agreed a formal grant of £100k per year, for the next three years, with an aim to bring 50 long term empty homes back into use in year one increasing to 70 by year three. The council also works with other third sector organisations such as LATCH, Canopy and GIPSIL
In September 2012 the council invested £1m into the Leeds Neighbourhood Approach. A new team was established to target neighbourhoods with high numbers of empty properties and poor quality private rented accommodation. A pilot exercise was undertaken in an area with 44 long term empty properties which resulted in 39 long term empties being brought back into use. a Compulsory purchase orders being considered for the remaining properties.
As well as working with the private rented sector and private property owners, the council is also looking how to bring empty properties back into use as social housing. Last month the council was able to let a previously empty property to a social housing tenant as part of a ground-breaking scheme, funded by investment from the Council’s Housing Revenue Account supported by funding from the Homes and Communities Agency.
The project has seen the council buying 20 properties, which were formerly council houses, then refurbishing them for letting as council housing. The first house let as the council house growth programme at Wellstone Garth has been fitted with a new kitchen, as well as being rewired and having external works completed.
The success of this scheme has prompted a further scheme to buy back 100 properties between April 2015 and March 2018, in a drive to provide more social housing in the city.
The new initiatives and the council’s continued proactive work with the sector will see the council sustain the number of empties brought back into occupation for the next five years and exceed the current average annual return of 395 long term properties.
For media enquiries, please contact:
Emma Whittell, Leeds City Council press office, on (0113) 2474713