Calderdale rated 12th highest in country for empty properties

Empty homes in Arundel Street, Halifax.
Empty homes in Arundel Street, Halifax.

Calderdale has the 12th highest number of empty properties of any borough in the country, according to figures from the Empty Homes Agency.

Of the 92,412 properties in Calderdale, 4,048 were empty last year, but Calderdale Council say the number of long-term empty properties has fallen from more than 2,500 four years ago to 1,585.

This is a fall of 28 per cent since 2009, more than double the reduction rate across Yorkshire and the Humber.

Mark Thompson, Calderdale Council’s head of Housing, Environment and Renewal services, says they are working hard to bring more disused houses back into use.

He said: “The relatively high percentage of empty homes in Calderdale is typical of Northern towns with a lot of older, smaller, stone built homes.

“The number of long term empty homes in Calderdale has fallen dramatically in the last four years – down by more than a 1,000 on the figure four years ago.

“We’ve done a lot of work on clusters of empty property, particularly around Halifax town centre. We want to get as many empty homes occupied as possible

“HX1 is a problem area for empty properties. We write to all empty home owners and invite them to an event once a year with letting agents and property owners where they can meet and possibly arrange for their property to come back into use.

“Empty homes can happen because someone in a family has died or properties have fallen into disrepair.

“We’ve done a lot of pro-active work and made loans available to people, especially in cluster areas.

“We offer help, advice, support and loans which is driving the downward trend.

“We do take enforcement action through environmental health where necessary.

“Over the last four years we’ve enforced a sale on seven properties, which sends out a strong message.

“We prepared to do some improvement work on the Malt Shovel in Southowram, which had been empty for years.

“Eventually, the pub went up for sale and there’s now a major refurbishment going on there.”

The council also disputed the current figure for households on the waiting list for a council house of 9,760.

That is more than double the 1997 figure of 4,666, but Mr Thompson says the statistic is distorted by people registering on the list who don’t need to.

He added: “There’s an important difference between those on the waiting list actively seeking a housing association property and those who have just registered on the list.

“We’ve seen some reduction in the number of people actively bidding for properties, which is around 1,500 people.

“Some people register on the list as an insurance against possible need in the future. Others only bid for very specific properties in specific areas. Welfare reform changes have driven different bidding behaviour, with some property types, such as 3 bedroom flats, becoming more difficult to let.”

Janette Pearce, Head of Pennine Housing 2000, said: “As the largest social landlord in Calderdale, we work tirelessly with our tenants, not only to help them into the right properties but to be happy in their homes.

“Through Keychoice, our choice-based lettings scheme, we ensure that the right people get the right properties in the right locations. We’ve had a lot of transfers due to the effects of Welfare Reform but our void levels have stayed at about 14% of our available stock.

“Over the last 10 years we have built 584 new homes, and now we are part of the Together Housing Group, we have plans for more across our communities.

“We are also working with our strategic partners and other registered landlords to ensure we’re maximising all the opportunities to increase housing options in the borough.

“We’re also working hard through programmes like the SOBS (Sick Of Being Skint) initiative and our apprenticeship programme to get people into work.”

Stuart Rumney, chief executive of Calderdale SmartMove, said: “Our role as a charity is to provide housing support to homeless or vulnerably housed local people and also provide informal education courses as well as supporting local schools.

“We can support clients whether it be with social housing associations or private landlords. Our experience of dealing with the Council has been a positive one.

“There is good communication with the council and over the last 12 months the capacity of clients we are able to support has actually increased by 33%. We are now able to meet a potential new client within days of a referral received.”