Over 1000 properties lay empty in Cardiff

Data journalist Dan Clark continues his series of investigations for us: today, he looks into the number of empty properties in the capital.

A total of 1,318 private sector properties in Cardiff laid vacant in the last financial year (2015/16), according to new figures released by the council. Currently in the city, almost one in every 50 properties is vacant. Across the whole of Wales, there are 23,000 private properties that lie empty, a figure which has risen from 19,612 in 2012-13.

The Cardiff data, published in response to a freedom of information request, shows that 166 homes have been empty for over 5 years and 39 for over 10 years. Grangetown was the parish with the highest volume of vacant properties, recording 233, although it wasn’t clear from the response why it was so high here.

Furthermore, as of June 2016, there are 205 empty council properties. The most popular categorisation of these are ‘routine voids’ (77 per cent), followed by ‘low demand’ (5 per cent). Properties classified as ‘routine voids’ refers to empty homes that require minor repairs and safety checks.

Apologies for the stats overload, but your basic take away from this is that Cardiff has a lot of empty properties. My first thought was that perhaps the demand just wasn’t there for them, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. As of 1 January 2017, there were 7,893 applicants on the Council’s housing waiting list.

So, what is being done? Cardiff Council have a scheme called the ‘Housing Enforcement Empty Property Policy‘, designed to help tackle the issue. Two of their main objectives are:

  • To bring back into use as many empty properties as possible
  • To limit the effect of empty properties on the Community, Council and Owner

According to figures published in the policy, the Council are currently returning an average of 62 vacant properties a year back into use. Some of the reasons cited as to why they become vacant in the first place include, dilapidation, abandonment, unresolved ownership, property holding and care holding.

Earlier this year, plans were passed for a new £2bn “garden village” on the outskirts of the city. As part of this, almost 6,000 new homes would be built. Of that number (5,970 homes), 30 per cent would be affordable housing – half of that being social rented homes and half low cost homes. But that’s still only around 1,800 homes in total, with no further details that might help people on that housing waiting list.

Having investigated the number of empty homes that already exist within the city, building so many new ones seems like an unnecessary cost. Would it not be more beneficial to spend more resource on the empty properties policy first and increase the number being brought back into use each year?

Michelle Collins manages the Empty Homes Wales project by United Welsh, a not-for-profit social landlord with over 25 years of experience in housing and development.

She said: “Seeing homes that are left empty to go into disrepair stirs up many emotions and feelings, especially at a time when Wales has a housing crisis, with 12,000 new homes needed each year to meet current demand.

“Transforming empty homes into habitable spaces is an innovative way to provide much-needed homes and help homeowners to protect their assets.”

Refurbishing a property may seem daunting, but help is available. The Empty Homes Wales project uses an innovative leasing model that doesn’t require any financial outlay from the homeowner.

Empty Homes Wales leases properties to recoup the cost of the refurbishment, then it’s up to the homeowner – United Welsh can carry on leasing the house on your behalf, you can rent it yourself, or sell up. The rental income received during the term of the lease is used to cover the cost of the refurbishment work.

Michelle added: “We work in partnership with homeowners to overcome any barriers they may face, such as inexperience of leasing property or lack of information around refurbishment standards or contractors.”

More information on housing in Cardiff:

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