Big fall in empty homes but charity warns over hotspots

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Numbers of empty homes across Yorkshire have fallen by more than 10 per cent in the last year but nearly 30,000 remain unoccupied, figures today reveal.

Analysis by the Empty Homes Agency suggests nearly 4,000 fewer homes were empty in October, down to 29,000 in the region, compared to a year before.

But the charity warns recent successes in reducing numbers of empty homes could be put at risk, with a third of local authorities showing a rise.

Areas in the North and Midlands continue to head the top 20 list of those with the highest proportion of homes standing empty for more than six months, but Kensington and Chelsea - one of the wealthiest areas in the country - has one in 50 houses empty.

In Yorkshire, the biggest fall in numbers of empty homes over the period was in Bradford were nearly 800 were occupied although the city, alongside Calderdale, has among the 15 highest number of empty homes in the country.

All but two of the local authorities in the region - Calderdale and Craven - saw falls in numbers of empty properties. York has the third lowest number in the country, with just 159 unoccupied.

Helen Williams, chief executive of the charity, said: “Great strides have been made in reducing the number of homes that remain empty but in some areas the numbers are on the rise again and with around one and a half million households on council waiting lists we cannot afford to take our eye off tackling the national waste of empty homes.

“Some of the areas where the numbers are on the rise, such as parts of central London, have buoyant housing markets and speculative buying-to-leave may well be a factor requiring some more imaginative responses.

“The housing crisis looks set to be a key battleground in next year’s general election and we hope that all political parties compete to come up with creative initiatives to tackle empty homes, otherwise we risk a slide back to the bad old days when we were reporting that long-term empty homes topped 300,000.”