You may have seen recent media coverage about our council homes and specifically the empty ones proving difficult to fill.
As housing falls under my responsibility, I thought I would explore this subject in more detail for this week’s column.
Thanks to changes in government legislation, we have been able to successfully reduce our housing waiting list from over 1,700 people to around the 330 mark.
This has been achieved by altering our housing allocations policy and changing the criteria for those on the waiting list.
The previous policy was an antiquated points-based system, with some people remaining on the list for years, many of whom no longer needed housing or had left the area.
Rather than having a bloated difficult system, we now use a much more effective procedure, ensuring we prioritise limited resources to those with the highest need and a local connection to the district.
We are now much more responsive to meeting the needs of the most vulnerable, such as those who have experienced homelessness, those with health issues and the elderly.
We have been able to successfully match many people to suitable properties, this year to date, we have let 71 empty homes to people on the register.
However, there are some homes that have proved harder to fill. It is only a small number and the properties are generally three-bedroom homes in isolated locations, which families wanting close access to schools and amenities do not wish to take up.
So the question for us now is what do we do with these properties?
Well, very shortly we will be carrying out a thorough review of our entire housing stock and we will then be in a much better position to consider our options moving forward.
As part of the review a dedicated housing voids team will be set up specifically to manage this issue.
In the meantime, we continue to keep our housing stock under review to ensure that the housing we have is fit to meet the existing and future needs of the district, both in terms of type, location and quality.
I’d like to remind anyone experiencing housing difficulties to contact our Housing Options team on 01775 761161.