A CALL for Kirklees Council to take immediate action to bring empty homes back into use was made today.
Liberal Democrats on the authority revealed there are 3,479 empty houses in the area – and 17,000 people on the council house waiting list.
Now they want the council to allocate money received under the Government’s New Homes Bonus scheme to end the blight.
They believe scores of homes could be made suitable for rent if Kirklees spends the £2m it has been allocated under the bonus scheme.
The New Homes Bonus started in April, and will match fund the additional council tax raised for new homes and empty properties brought back into use.
Kirklees Lib Dem Group leader Clr Kath Pinnock said she was “appalled” that there were 3,479 long-term empty homes across Kirklees while 17,000 people were on the council house waiting list.
She said the list only took into account properties which had stood empty for at least six months.
Clr Pinnock said: “There are many different types of long-term empty homes across the borough and it is spread across the whole of the area.
“In every ward we have at least 100 empty properties and in some there are almost 200.
“Whatever the reason for them being empty, the fact is we have nearly 17,000 people on the waiting list, which will no doubt increase in the future, as will the general demand for housing.
“Many of the empty properties are left in that state when their elderly occupants, who often have no family, move into a home. The properties start to deteriorate and it is a blight on an area”.
One example cited by the councillors is in East Street, Lindley, where a cottage has been empty for almost 30 years.
Clr Christine Stanfield, who has backed the call for action, said: “It was the home of an elderly lady who died and was put on the market by her family. It is such a shame as it is a pretty cottage right in the heart of Lindley.”
The Lib Dem proposals are:
l Renovating suitable council stock to bring it back into use
l Setting up a loan scheme to help property owners carry out renovations before letting it to people on the housing list
l Creating a social letting agency run by the council that would manage and let empty properties for their owners removing the responsibility and work required by the property owners, potentially producing a profit for empty homes reinvestment
l Establishing a helpline and assessment service to help property owners get their properties back into circulation.
A council spokesman said: “The fact that there are 17,000 people waiting for affordable housing at a time when around 3,600 properties in the district are empty indicates the acute need we have in Kirklees for more homes.
“Next week the council will be debating officers' proposals on a local plan which can deliver more homes and jobs for our communities, and this is just one of the factors councillors may take into account when reaching a decision.
"There are often reasons why some homes remain empty, for example when people move into long-term care or when properties become subject to the probate process.
“It isn't always the case that they are simply left empty when they could be in use.
“The council's Empty Homes Strategy sets out our approach to working with owners to bring empty properties back into use across Kirklees.”