Empty council houses lead to rent shortfall in Uttlesford

ALMOST �100,000 in rent income for Uttlesford District Council (UDC) will be lost due to a high number of empty council properties. The estimated shortfall was brought to the attention of UDC s finance and administration committee by the chief finance off

ALMOST �100,000 in rent income for Uttlesford District Council (UDC) will be lost due to a high number of empty council properties.

The estimated shortfall was brought to the attention of UDC's finance and administration committee by the chief finance officer, Stephen Joyce, at a meeting last month.

Although the council is expected to make an overall saving in the housing revenue account, Mr Joyce's report noted that empty properties, or void levels, were "above the level assumed in the budget".

David Parish from the Tenants' Forum said: "There are too many empty council properties out there at the moment. I would like to know why we are not filling these houses quicker?

"I know there is a particular problem with one apartment building for elderly people where half of the upstairs flats are empty. The residents can't use the stairs and the council are unable to install stair lifts."

According to UDC there are 2876 council properties in the district, 73 of which are currently unoccupied. The majority of these are hard-to-let properties, including 43 specifically for the elderly.

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A council spokesman said: "As many of these properties are sheltered housing, most of the 1300 or so people on the council housing list are not eligible for tenancies within them. Prospective tenants are also entitled to decline any offer of tenancy, which can sometimes lead to properties remaining unoccupied.

"Sheltered housing and housing for the elderly by its nature has a higher turnover rate than general-need properties, meaning fluctuations in the number of void sheltered properties can be difficult to predict.

"Despite the fact that a recent independent stock condition survey found that UDC's housing stock was maintained to a high standard, the council is constantly undertaking work to improve the quality of its accommodation.

"If improvements are required to a property's kitchen or bathroom, work is often carried out when the property is void to minimise disruption. This can lead to a property remaining unoccupied for longer than would otherwise be the case.

"The council is also working closely with partners to redevelop and remodel unoccupied sheltered housing in the district, which will lead to a reduction in the number of void properties in the future.

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