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PICKLES Eric smiling

Councils (and housing associations for that matter) routinely complain about lack of funding for new housing while showing shockingly poor asset management – thus constraining the amount of the housing they provide.

Now the worst offenders will be held to account. The Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has announced that from April, councils will be required to publish the most recent valuation of their social housing stock, annually to ensure it is being put to best use. Those who retain vacant, multi million pound properties will no longer be able to conceal what they are doing.

Mr Pickles said the sale of just one high-value council house could help fund more affordable house building, increase supply and reduce social housing waiting lists. Social housing waiting lists have halved since 2010 – but the new rules could bring this down even further.

The new data will be published by postcode, listing how much the properties are worth, how many are occupied and how many are standing empty.

Councils could also sell their higher-value empty properties, releasing more money for house building without affecting existing tenants’ rights. While the number of empty homes down by 160,000 since the end of 2009 to a 10-year low, this could reduce the numbers of empty properties even further. One way of spending the proceeds of selling a high value vacant properties would be to restore several derelict ones.

Southwark council were able to sell off one of their council homes for a staggering £3 million – helping to fund the building of 20 new properties across the borough.

Mr Pickles argued that other councils across the country could follow suit – potentially helping thousands of families by selling their higher-value vacant homes.

He said:

“Councils across the country are sitting on millions of pounds which could be put to far better use and get them building elsewhere in the area. This would allow more families to come off social housing waiting lists and get into homes.

“Instead of holding that money as equity in expensive empty properties, the councils should sell up those vacant buildings and reinvest the money to get the country building.”

The announcement is a victory for the Policy Exchange think tank – they published a report on the sale of high value social housing two years ago.  It follows an earlier financial incentive to councils to follow best practice in asset management by selling high value stock.

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