More than £1 million has been lost on empty council houses in less than a year, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.
According to figures up to February this year – week 46 of the financial year – Northampton Borough Council had lost out on £1,026,262.54 in void properties.
Broken down, the figures showed an average loss of £22,000 to £25,000 per week since last April. The request also revealed that almost the same total – £1,341,654 – was lost in tenants’ rent arrears up to February.
But while the council documented 232 empty properties in February – the majority of which had been void for up to six months – at the same time there were 2,887 on the waiting list for housing.
Northampton council housing campaigner Norman Adams said: “The question I often ask myself is whether the borough council is making the best use of the housing stock they currently have.
“I don’t think they are, as they have homes standing empty and at the same time pay to have people in temporary accommodation and living without a home.
“This seems very wrong, when some of the properties have been empty and people need to be asking why.”
Northampton Partnership Homes, which is responsible for the maintenance of the council’s housing stock, responded that the high number of void properties was due to “major” redevelopment projects.
A spokesman said: “Throughout the year we have tenants moving into and out of properties, which does mean we are never at a point where all of our homes are being lived in.
“In the last year we have also been working on some major projects which has meant we have kept a number of properties empty. This has allowed us the time needed to consider all of the options available as we make thorough assessments of the work needed to plan the refurbishment or redevelopment these properties.
“We are taking the time needed to make the right decision that will have the biggest benefit to tenants and the local community.
“This is not a quick process and means these properties will show as empty, even if, at this point, they are not suitable or available to be let.”