Council houses sit empty as waiting list soars

JL
29 Jan 2024
Lib Dem University Ward spokesperson James Hawketts in front of the previously void house on Harbord Rd.

A council house in Harbord Road has remained empty for 3 years. A local resident asked the Lib Dems to investigate why.

James Hawketts, University Ward spokesperson reports:

“It seems it was put in the ‘too difficult to deal with’ category of work, as the whole house needed improvements, including: a new kitchen, new bathroom, new doors, new ceilings, plastering, internal decoration, electrical work, and external garden clearance.”

Norwich City Council’s housing office replied to our investigations explaining that:

“The council sub-contracted this work as part of a wider backlog project for which the contractor had to tender. Before the works commenced the contractor pulled out, which meant starting the whole procurement exercise again.”

The whole house project has now been resurveyed and re-priced, and the work is scheduled to start in the next few weeks, hopefully concluding by April. This is one of six outstanding long-term voids in the area, and is among 36,000 council houses in Norwich which have some level of repair outstanding. Just imagine the cost savings to the ratepayer, and the opportunity gained for a family on the waitlist to have a decent home, had this action taken place sooner.

As reported in our last FOCUS newsletter, the average turnaround for council houses seeking new occupants is 69 days, which remains far above the target of 21 days, and a strain for so many in this time of housing and rental difficulty, where 4500 are waiting on the register for a house. Notwithstanding the difficulty in having been let down by one contractor, 3 years is simply unacceptably long to re-let a council home. The question is how houses like this one are left in such a state for so long, repeatedly.

James & the Lib Dems want to know of any other properties left empty for extended periods so we can raise this with the relevant authority within the council.