Council takes longer to relet homes and blames covid

The council has taken much longer to bring its empty homes back into use over the past year and blamed the coronavirus.

The average number of days that council houses and flats stood empty between tenants leaving and new ones arriving increased to 135 days from 43 days, according to a new report.

More than 200 council properties changed hands in the year to the end of March – and almost 450 in the 2019-20 financial year.

The issue was raised by residents’ representatives at the Brighton and Hove City Council housing management panels that were held this week.

Roy Crowhurst, who chairs the residents’ association for Woods House, in Sackville Road, Hove, a council block for over-55, was one those to speak out.

He said that the council claimed to prioritise refurbishing one-bedroom and specialist senior housing but this was not reflected in his experience.

Mr Crowhurst said that five flats were empty in his block, some of them since September last year.

The situation was similar at Churchill House, in Hangleton Road, with people wanting to move from family homes to senior housing while flats were empty and awaiting redecoration.

The council’s head of housing repairs Glyn Huelin said that, in general, preparing and reletting properties was a “challenge”.

The time taken to turn them around had increased because of the pandemic, he said, adding: “There is a lot of work being undertaken to try to progress properties through.

“Things which are linked to that are contractors carrying out kitchen and bathroom replacements and emptying properties.

“Those contracts are operating but were delayed last year which had an impact.”

At the end of March, 311 council homes were empty, which Mr Huelin said was a “significant increase” on previous years. The figure for the end of March last year was 78.

The council’s housing operations manager Justine Harris said that senior housing was being let but it would take some time to get back on track.

The council’s repairs service was recruiting more people with a trade to carry out the work needed to refurbish empty homes.

Labour councillor John Allcock, who chaired the west area panel meeting, said: “I’m sure residents understand that covid had an impact on that.

“But at the same time, empty council homes have an effect of people not being housed when we’re desperate to get people moved on – and off the waiting list.”

Councillor Allcock said that people moving from bigger homes to smaller ones, particularly seniors, freed up the much-needed bigger homes.

He also said that empty properties meant lost revenue – with the council missing out not just on rents but council tax.

The council has 11,698 homes, with 877 of those classed as seniors housing. The council was also funding 2,207 homeless households in temporary housing.

In the past year, the council has built or bought 144 homes – including 12 new homes in Buckley Close, 38 in Hartington Road and 30 in Hawkridge Court.

It bought back 64 properties from people who had bought their homes under the “right to buy” scheme.

  1. Greens Out Reply

    Oh look. More incompetence from our inept council.

  2. BNbye Reply

    I, with band A, have been waiting for a 1 bed for nearly a year. So, I’m shocked to hear the council have been prioritising such properties!

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