RCT empty property rates amongst highest in Britain
Research carried out by the Liberal Democrats has revealed that there are 3,142 vacant homes in Rhondda Cynon Taff, 1,244 of which have been empty for more than five years.
Councillor Mike Powell says it is a disgrace that so many properties are lying empty whilst homelessness is increasing and people trying to get on the property ladder are finding it more and more difficult.
"This is not a new problem but RCT Council, and indeed the Welsh Government, have failed to get to grips with the issue. The Liberal Democrats showed that out of 267 Councils who responded to a freedom of information request across Wales, England and Scotland, RCT has the fourth highest number of empty properties and by far the highest of any Local Authority in Wales - only Durham, Leeds, Bradford and Cornwall reported higher figures.
"I have been highlighting this issue for years but there has been little progress. Way back in 2008 I put a motion forward asking that a policy to address the matter was brought forward as a matter of urgency, but the Labour administration voted against it. Thanks to pressure by Welsh Liberal Democrats in the Assembly the Government did impose some measures including the need for Councils to have an empty homes strategy and to appoint an officer to deal with the problem, but it is obvious that they don't go far enough. RCT have only managed to bring 160 homes back into use in the last couple of years.
"These empty properties are a blight on the area, with some places suffering more than others. Treforest, for example, is particularly badly affected with a large number of houses which were purchased as student lets now falling into disrepair. In the Rhondda there are streets where there are almost as many derelict homes as there are inhabited ones - Oak Street in Clydach Vale (below) being a prime example.
"Some small measures have been introduced such as grants for first-time buyers, but these are not particularly well publicised and alone are not sufficient to address the scale of the situation. This Council has to get to grips with the situation and soon."