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Buy to let property investors in the private rental sector have been criticised for leaving thousands of vacant properties across Wakefield.
Over 3,300 houses in Wakefield have been vacant for at least one month, according to figures which date back to March. However, the number of derelict properties has fallen. The district no longer has any ‘empty property hotspots’ or single streets with lots of abandoned homes.
Councillor Glenn Burton led a task group on the issue and was ‘pleasantly surprised’ by his findings. Speaking at a scrutiny committee meeting on Monday, he 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.’
A mere 0.8 per cent of the city’s overall housing stock is empty. This is in comparison to the national average of 1.8 per cent. Councillor Burton said that this demonstrated the way in which Wakefield was ‘punching above its weight on the issue.’
However, there have been problems reported where due to emotional attachments to properties or a desire to wait until property prices rise, many homes have been left vacant by landlords. A lack of funds to renovate a property is another reason why a landlord might leave it uninhabited.
Councillor David Jones said that rogue property owners who did not adhere to legal guidelines were a contributing factor as they were difficult to trace. He 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.’
Councillor Betty Rhodes added that some owners were letting individual rooms out to large groups, causing 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 report also commended the council’s action on empty homes in recent years but said the ways landlords with empty homes can be helped should be ‘better promoted.’