Council under fire for length of time homes are lying empty
A REPORT that says houses are lying empty for up to two months in the Highlands and islands has led to Highland council being criticised.
The average time for a council house to be lying void is 47.26 days, according to the report presented to the community services committee meeting on Monday.
Leader of the opposition, councillor Maxine Smith, said: ‘We definitely need benchmarking because I can tell you that Albyn, another Highland housing association, reported at its AGM this week, its average void time is 19.5 days, so why can’t we achieve this?’
Councillor Smith also said she understands that Albyn, currently has under 3,000 properties, while the council has almost 20,000.
She said: ‘ We have just under 8,000 people waiting for a council house. Many will never see one, but leaving houses empty for longer than a month is not acceptable.’
The council target is 35 days, but councillor Smith wants to see this number reduced to 25 days and the target to be met by 2016.
According to Highland council the high number is down to Caithness figures. A spokesperson for the council said: ‘If Caithness figures were removed, then the average number of days to re-let would be 36. In the past five years the best we have achieved is 30 days in one quarter of 2011.’
Councillor Allan Henderson continued: ‘While every officer and councillor looks for as quick a turnaround as possible, sometimes repairs and the opportunity to refurbish just take a little longer. I am sure the new tenants appreciate this course of action. The number of voids in Lochaber is very low, reflecting the desperation for rented accommodation in Lochaber.’
The council spokesperson added: ‘We do benchmarking already but we need to compare like-with-like. Thirty five days is our target and this can, of course, be reviewed and we will do our very best to improve this.’