Concerns raised over number of vacant student homes in heartland communities

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A MASS exodus of students from their traditional heartlands in a Yorkshire city could help push down property prices - but there are fears it could also send the numbers of empty properties in those areas spiralling upwards.

Housing bosses in Leeds have launched a major investigation into the impact of the continuing flight of students from areas like Hyde Park, Headingley and Kirkstall into purpose-built flats in the city centre.

A report to Leeds City Council’s housing scrutiny panel claimed the “plethora” of student accommodation blocks in the city had led to “significant changes”.

“This has led to a situation of transition for some neighbourhoods and concerns about whether alternative demand for housing is present in areas where students have been found to be leaving, that can prevent an increase in empty properties,” the report said.

A meeting of the panel was told in the past families have been priced out of areas including Headingley, Kirkstall and Hyde Park by landlords who have pushed up property costs over the years. Landlords had also neglected the maintenance of many properties, confident rents would keep rolling in.

“To some extent, the landlords of LS6 are reaping what they sowed,” the council’s executive member for housing, Coun Peter Gruen, told colleagues.

Coun John Illingworth, who represents Kirkstall, added: “I am more worried that houses will be left vacant. There is a notional idea of income which cannot be achieved. We should be vigorously encouraging reducing the house prices and rents.”

Research has previously found there may be almost 5,000 “surplus” student bed spaces in Leeds due to an exodus to blocks of purpose-built flats. But concerns have also been raised those bed spaces - often in large houses converted into bedsits - could be difficult to return into the family market.

Leeds has a student population of 59,000. But with tuition fees impacting on application numbers, universities have previously been “reluctant” to predict student numbers beyond 2016.