YEP: Yowzer! Empty Properties!

More homes stand empty in Leeds than any other city outside London, it was revealed today.

According to official government figures, there are 17,557 properties that are empty and not being used in Leeds. This is an “astonishing” amount says the YEP.

Tiberius also found it quite astonishing when he looked into this problem over a year ago. He couldn’t help but notice the tell-tale signs that all was not well with the Leeds housing market – the boarded up council flats in Harehills and Burmantofts, the burnt-out old townhouses on Chapeltown Road, the perpetually To-Let flats around Crown Point Bridge in the centre of town. When he rang up Leeds City Council to find out more he was given all kind of helpful data – graphs, tables, spreadsheets all showing the scale of the problem and the areas worst affected.

In late 2007 the number of empty properties stood at just under 19,000 – a fall from a high of almost 21,500 in September 2007. Of these 19,000, approximately 10,000 were judged to be ‘long term voids’ – properties that have been empty for over six months. Tiberius may have been shocked then, but he’s since had time to get over it.

By early 2008 the scale of the problem was becoming increasingly evident to many. In May, local housing campaigners Hands Off Our Homes were referring to Leeds as “the empty flats capital of the UK” while at the same time The Guardian was reporting that “one in three apartments in central Leeds are empty at the moment” – yes, Tiberius says, the same central Leeds where the YEP is based.

Tiberius finds it hard to believe that there was not enough journalistic curiosity or investigative nous in the YEP to have broken this story long before now. Rather it seems more likely to him that there was a reluctance to print the news that would finally burst an already deflating Leeds Housing Bubble. Tiberius says this is understandable, if not a rather dubious public-service.

However, it now appears that the YEP is actually feigning surprise at the situation (Tiberius says “feigning” because he has too much faith in his local paper to believe it could have escaped their attention) and it therefore becomes incumbent upon us to understand the role our local corporate-media had in creating and sustaining the Leeds Housing Bubble through their complicity (or, if they insist, their ineptitude). This should, Tiberius believes, further impress upon us the need – urgent need in fact- for a local, democratic, and accountable media service.

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