Vacant council house costs are soaring

Anne Allan sought clarification as to periods of time it took to re-let properties
Anne Allan sought clarification as to periods of time it took to re-let properties

More than 200 council houses are currently sitting without tenants and costing the local authority £10,000s in lost rent every week.

And a financial report has shown that lost rents from voids is already £414,000 over budget, after just five months of the current financial year.

During a meeting of Abetrdeenshire Council’s Communities Committee, head of housing, Rob Simpson, said it has been difficult to address the issue over voids or empty houses which were awaiting repairs, insulation work to meet Government guidelines, and the refitting of kitchens and windows.

When asked by Councillor Gwyneth Petrie how many properties were lying empty across Aberdeenshire, and what the level of rent loss was, he said that the number was in excess of 200.

He also confirmed that the rent loss aspect was being measured and when pressed on this point byCouncillor Glen Reynolds, Mr Simpson confirmed that the sums were significant and could well be in the tens of thousands weekly.

SNP lead spokesperson on Communities, Councillor Anne Allan confirmed that in relation to her Peterhead and Rattray North ward, one property had remained empty since 2015 and sought clarification as to periods of time it took to re-let properties.

Many properties await contractors carrying out work to insulate interior walls and Mr Simpson confirmed that the council was continuing to address this issue.

He added that many of the properties awaiting work were in the north of the Shire. That prompted Fraserburgh councillor Charles Buchan to comment: “Many residents approach me asking a very basic question: ‘If we have a housing crisis, why are there so many houses left empty for long periods of time?’ We must do everything we can to avoid having scarce, much needed housing lying unoccupied.

“Fraserburgh has a huge waiting list for housing, especially one and three bedroom council houses, so it is very frustrating to see a large number of properties lying empty waiting for new windows and doors. Others are also unoccupied for a long time waiting for work to start on internal insulation.

“Apart from the effect on the lives of those who wait for their property to be repaired or who are waiting to be housed, the council must be losing tens of thousands of pounds a week on lost rents from unoccupied property, just in Fraserburgh alone.”

Councillor Reynolds added: “Empty homes are a blight on the landscape, and even more so when the housing situation is a priority for the council. Most, if not all, councillors will face constituents who ask why empty homes are left seemingly abandoned and yet housing lists are so long.”