The 'scandal' of homes in Sheffield sitting empty for more than 10 years

The number of homes sitting empty in Sheffield has been branded a 'scandal', after it emerged more than 100 have been unoccupied for at least a decade.

Wednesday, 10th January 2018, 3:06 pm
Updated Wednesday, 10th January 2018, 5:10 pm
Laura Gordon branded the number of empty homes in Sheffield a 'scandal'

At least 1,929 homes across the city have been empty for at least six months, with 627 of those unoccupied for two years or more, 274 for at least five years and 122 for 10 years or longer, new statistics show.

The Liberal Democrats, who obtained the figures under the Freedom of Information Act, claim the Government and Sheffield Council should be doing more to bring those homes into use, especially with homelessness on the rise and many people sleeping rough.

Laura Gordon, the party's prospective parliamentary candidate for Sheffield Hallam, said: "The Government needs to urgently review the current system, which is clearly not working, and Sheffield City Council needs to be given the powers and resources to bring empty homes back into use.

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"It is shameful that Sheffield Council has failed to use existing powers to end this scandal. Local families have spent Christmas homeless because of Labour’s inaction and ineptitude."

In Sheffield, 203 empty homes were bought back into use during 2016/17 but Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMO), which local authorities can use to take power over unoccupied properties, have not been applied once in the last five years.

Nationally, nearly 215,000 homes have been empty for at least six months, of which just under 11,000 have been unoccupied for 10 years or longer.

Local authorities across Britain brought nearly 30,000 empty homes back into use during 2016/17, but between them used EDMOs just 91 times in the last five years.

The homelessness charity Shelter called the scale of empty homes 'frustrating' but said the national housing crisis was so chronic that even if every one of them was brought back into use that would not be enough to bridge the shortfall.

Ben Keegan, chief executive of the Sheffield-based youth homelessness charity Roundabout, said empty homes were nothing new and represented a relatively low percentage of the total homes.

He said landlords would often sit on properties as an investment or be unwilling to sell at a loss when the cost of refurbishment led to a drop in the property's value.

"We've been involved ourselves in trying to get empty homes back into use and it's not easy," he added.

"Finding a property is only part of the problem when it comes to helping young people who are homeless, as you also need to ensure all the necessary support is in place."

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said councils had been given a range of powers to tackle empty homes, the number of which had fallen by a third since 2010. He added that it was investing more than £1 billion to reduce homelessness and rough sleeping.

The Star has contacted Sheffield Council.