The war on empty homes in Bradford – blamed for blight and a housing crisis – is slowly being won, new figures suggest.
The number of vacant properties across the city is down by almost 3,500 on four years earlier, a fall of 25 per cent.
Last year, the number fell by 271 to 10,277.
Examples of projects to bring empty properties back into use include the major regeneration of eyesore properties in the Goitside area of the city centre, once dubbed ‘Death Row’, and a long-awaited scheme to rejuvenate the once-derelict Emmfield Villas in Emm Lane, Heaton.
The latest figures are a boost for the Telegraph & Argus’ Save Our Green Spaces campaign, which aims to reduce the pressure to develop the district’s green areas by bringing brownfield sites back into use for housing and regenerating empty homes.
There is also encouraging progress in tackling long-term empty homes, those without occupants for more than six months, which cause the greatest concern.
In Bradford, that total dropped by 813 in 2013, to 3,953, and is little more than half the figure back in 2009 – when it stood at 7,302.
Across the district, new occupants were found for 2,722 empty homes over 12 months, of which 1,802 were vacant for more than six months.
Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles, the former leader of Bradford Council, was quick to claim the credit for the improvement, which mirrored an impressive fall in empty homes across England.
The Conservative pointed to a £235m scheme to revamp properties and new powers to force absent owners to continue paying council tax, as a deterrent.
Mr Pickles said: “I’m pleased to see that the efforts we’ve made to bring these homes back into use have helped bring the numbers down to a ten-year low.”
But Councillor Val Slater, Bradford Council’s Cabinet member for housing, said it was the Council’s hard work that was reaping rewards, including: l A dedicated team to identify empty homes and find the owners.
l Offers of equity loans to help people struggling to bring homes back into use.
l Identifying other organisations, such as housing associations, able to take over and rent out homes, if necessary.
l A “stick” of threatening compulsory purchase where owners refuse to co-operate.
Val Slater said: “I’m not surprised by these figures, because this has been one of my priorities since I took on the housing portfolio.
“We know just how important it is to residents that we tackle this problem, because long-term empty homes blight neighbourhoods and can attract anti-social behaviour.
“We also have a housing crisis, so the more properties that we can bring back into use the more we can do to deal with that crisis.”
Coun Slater pointed to Manningham and Keighley as areas where particular effort had gone into filling empty homes, but stressed it was a city-wide problem.
The only blot on the figures was a rise in long-term empty homes in Calderdale, from 1,774 in October 2012 to 1,846 a year later.