Council report on empty property avoids any comment on its own poor performance
The planning committee yesterday approved plans which would see the former Council offices at Ashbank on Shipton Road converted into apartments.
Ashbank has been empty since 2013.
The news comes a few days before a report on empty property in the City is due to be discussed by the Council’s Executive.
It follows claims in 2018 that the City had a relatively large number of empty properties. At the time that seemed – given local land and property prices – unlikely but the Council agreed to review the issue. The review wasn’t aimed at bringing unused space (e.g. floors above shops) into use but rather focused on those properties where empty property tax relief was being claimed.
Last September the Council increased the Council Tax liability on long term empty homes to 300%.
National statistics confirm that York has the second lowest level of empty homes in the country (after Oxford).
The Council claims that it has helped to bring back in to use 45 long term empty properties, through advice and assistance, since April 2017.
An audit of properties shown as empty on the Council tax database found that 43% of those visited so far are either occupied or about to be occupied.
Only 150 (27%) of properties visited were found to be empty. Nearly half of these empty homes were undergoing refurbishment, currently up for sale or let or awaiting site redevelopment.
In only 10% of the cases (15 properties) the owner appeared to have no immediate plans to bring the property back in to use.
One unintended consequence of the audit may be that some owners, who have been claiming empty property tax relief, may find that they now receive a substantial bill.
The report pointedly fails to mention the Councils own housing stock. Leaving aside delays in re-letting Council houses, the list of empty properties owned by the Council – which includes some residential homes – clearly merits further investigation.
Whether the Council’s Executive will order a probe into their own performance will become clear at next Thursday’s meeting