Empty council homes forecast to cost £1m in lost rents

The number of empty council houses and flats has fallen but the vacant homes – or voids – are likely to leave the town hall coffers short by more than £1 million this year.

The figures were revealed at a Brighton and Hove City Council meeting at Hove Town Hall this evening (Wednesday 28 September).

Conservative councillor Anne Meadows asked how many council homes were empty after raising concerns about delays in carrying out repairs and maintenance.

She told the council’s Housing Committee that, as of May, lost rent from empty homes was predicted to be £1.34 million in the current financial year. This was more than double the original budget of £636,000.

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Green councillor David Gibson, who co-chairs the committee, said that the number of empty properties had fallen from the 210 reported in May to 170 at the end of last month.

Councillor Gibson also said that the council was reletting properties more quickly, taking 150 days rather than 177 days previously.

He said that the average relet time had a “long way to go” because the figures included properties that were empty for a long time during the coronavirus pandemic.

Delays occurred because covid-19 affected staff levels and contractor capacity, he said.

The forecast rent loss had fallen to just over £1 million, with an increase to the missed rent budget of £721,000, which Councillor Gibson said was a “big shift”.

He hoped that lost rents would be closer to budget by the end of the year.

He also said that the number of homes relet had increased, with 472 homes going to new tenants in the past financial year – 2021-22.

This figure was higher than the pre-pandemic level of 445 a year.

Councillor Gibson said: “We’re operating at a higher level now than we were before the pandemic.

“In August, the service let 62 empty council homes, so if you times that by 12, you get an enormous figure, which would be very impressive if that could be sustained.”

In the first quarter of 2022-23, the number of households on the housing register stood at 7,592, down from 7,686 in the final quarter of 2021-22.

  1. Jonathan T Reply

    I thought people were always saying not enough council houses! Perhaps look harder!

    • Helen Reply

      Jonathan T
      I think you’ve missed the point.
      You can say look harder, but who allocates these homes, um the council, these properties are EMPTY because they need work and council are slow at getting them ready.
      The question you should be asking, is why are council homes empty when there’s people on the waiting list.

    • Dave Reply

      Jonathan, I hardly think 16% social housing is even close to a realistic level. It’s a safety net and should be much higher.
      Just think of all those landlords building massive pensions out of our tax money paid to them in social rents.

  2. Sd Reply

    Good grief.

  3. James Reply

    I worked with one of the councillors. Very political and emotional. I really think we need to appoint professionals to run the council and not ideological Guardian or Daily Mail / Express readers. I just want the job done. Sick and tired of all the politics.

  4. Robert G Reply

    Such a waste. These could be converted into nice homes and sold for decent money. Am surprised developers aren’t all over this

    • Benjamin Reply

      The problem is the backlog, repairs also deal with empty homes, and having seen the state some tenants leave their place in when they vacate, it’s not a simple matter.

    • mart Burt Reply

      Nope council need to get them ready for people to move in and get rent revenue in. Selling these homes is not an option.

  5. Technique Reply

    Hardly surprising, the council is far more interested in cycle lanes and so-called re-wilding, than anything else.

    And tomorrow, they’ll all be preaching to the converted at their conference.

    • Benjamin Reply

      Good thing that re-wilding is backed by an overwhelming amount of positive academic evidence and globally accepted as a good thing. Best thing is, it doesn’t retract from other responsibilities because, by it’s very nature, it is mainly a hands-off approach.

      And cycle lanes…well, they are always going to be a point of contention, but at least they are different teams and have no influence on repairing homes.

      • Noodle Reply

        Rewilding farm land, not pavements genius…
        The council are going to be spending millions repairing the pavements not to mention litigation. Money that could be used to, I don’t know, put solar panels on council housing… The Greens are the least green of all.

  6. Chris Reply

    So are we saying that there is no point in building more social housing to be left empty. Or does the system need a percentage always to be empty ?

    • Benjamin Reply

      No sir. Because reletting is different to new homes.

      • Chris Reply

        Ahh – so if we had more empty homes the council could take longer to re-let them ?

        • Some Guy Reply

          The reality is that there’s always going to be a percentage of homes standing empty because of issues outstanding between lets. Repairs, etc. The percentage of housing could go up or down, but is unlikely ever to even approach 0. If there were more council homes available, a certain percentage of them would still stand empty at times, but there would be a larger absolute number available and quickly let.
          There’s also the idea that new builds will be more likely to be fit-to-let as they have not had time to age or degrade. That’s contentious and depends on your opinion of new builds, but it’s there.

          Finally, the article doesn’t even touch on an obvious question: how much more would it cost to remedy all the empty homes in a single year, and is that figure in the budget? I suspect it’s cheaper to leave them empty and fix them only at the current rate than to do them all at once (overtime, extra contracts, etc.). In these wallet-withering times there often isn’t the money to do everything one would like.

          • mart Burt

            Some Guy
            Interesting comment about budgeting and your theory might have some bearing until you realise that it takes them nearly two years to repair street lighting, but overnight to take out a cycle lane.
            An empty property isn’t earning any money in rent or council taxes, the quicker it’s in the loop the better.

          • Some Guy

            @Mart They’re different funding streams. Part of the reason there’s been so much change (putting in, taking out, doesn’t matter) in the bike lane business is because the government at a national level has put in funding for it. Which means the council has to do SOMETHING with transport, in order to use that money to pay staff, replace tools, etc.
            Consider this example. The council see money from Westminster for bike lanes. They put in a bike lane. They then mark up the admin, the planning, the HR time towards that project as coming out of that money. Those staff are then paid for the month/year/whatever and didn’t spend anywhere near the whole period working on the bike lane. They were doing their usual duties, but safely paid for. The construction guys bill for new spades and picks and whatnot. They KEEP those tools for use on future jobs. The bike lane then needs tearing out… and the whole process starts again.
            Note that I’m not alleging fraud, just that doing this funded work benefits the council and being on its last financial legs any help is appreciated.
            I guarantee there would be loads of wasteful churn in housing if that’s where the government put the funds, and for the same reason: it uses earmarked money to supply the council in general with its lifeblood.

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