Date Published 18 July 2018
Wakefield's council are extremely concerned by the private rented sector's landlords in the area that have left thousands of rentable homes' empty for some considerable time.
Over 3,300 houses in Wakefield have been vacant for at least one month according to figures that date back to March, on a positive note the number of run down/derelict properties has dropped. Although the number of properties that have been empty may seem high, the authority now states that ‘empty property hotspots' or streets with high numbers of empty homes are now a thing of the past.
Councillor Glenn Burton is in charge of the council's task group investigating the issue and is ‘pleasantly surprised' by the team's findings.
At a recent council scrutiny committee meeting, Burton said: ‘There's been a change over time from having very concentrated areas of Victorian terraced housing, which was in very low demand, particularly in the south-east and Hemsworth.
'Having been a problem in the past, it isn't anymore."
The national average of empty housing stock in councils' boundaries is 1.8% and in comparison Wakefield is doing exceptionally well as it is just 0.8%. Burton described the council's efforts as "punching above its weight on the issue."
But there are still problems with potential homes remaining empty because of owners holding on to properties for prices to rise or just down to being emotionally unable to sell the property, probably due to family memories.
Another reason why a property remains empty is because a landlord may not have the necessary funds to renovate their property.
Councillor David Jones stated that some rogue property owners who did not comply with the legal guidelines were also responsible for the issue, and to find out their whereabouts was extremely difficult.
Jones said: "A number of these private landlords aren't registered landlords and so they go off the radar. As a consequence, more pressure needs to be put on this particular type of landlords."
Another councillor, Betty Rhodes criticised the landlords that let out single rooms to a large number of renters, were causing severe issues with overcrowding, she said: "There was one case in my ward (Wakefield North) where every room in the house had a family put in it. There was just one kitchen and one bathroom and all the families had to share them. For some people, it's just all about the income. The landlord has thought, ‘I can get another family up there, regardless of the consequences.' It is an issue."
The task group's report congratulated the council's efforts and achievements in reducing the number of empty homes but with a caveat. The council must improve its communication with landlords who have empty homes about how they can be help, or be helped.