EMPTY council houses in the city have lost the council more than £2 million in potential rent since the pandemic started, it has been revealed.

Latest figures show that since May, £1,042,000 worth of rent has been lost - and the figure will soon eclipse the £1,068,647 lost in the previous municipal year.

The council has previously claimed that there was an “unfortunate backlog” of empty houses due to a “shortage of available tradespeople” following the Covid lockdowns.

The council added that many of the empty houses require "major works" before they are re-let which has led to "homes being empty longer than we would like".

However, Conservative councillor Mary Mears claimed that the ruling Green administration has “failed the most vulnerable people in the city”.

Cllr Mears said: “People are desperate for family homes with many living in crowded accommodation but the council is failing to repair and let out its empty properties.

“This is not only costing local families who need a home but is also costing the Housing Budget around £2 million a year in lost rent.

The Argus: From left, Cllr Anne Meadows, Cllr Mary Mears and Cllr Dawn BarnettFrom left, Cllr Anne Meadows, Cllr Mary Mears and Cllr Dawn Barnett

"The council’s new in-house service has accumulated a staggering backlog of over 7,000 repairs since it was created in March 2020 and simply cannot repair its hundreds of empty homes and let them out.

“The Labour-Green housing coalition has failed the most vulnerable people in the city.”

Between May 2019 and May 2020, the figure for lost rent from council houses stood at £302,371.

However, since the start of the pandemic there has been a large increase in rent lost from council houses standing empty due to a lack of "contractor availability".

The Argus: One of the empty houses in HangletonOne of the empty houses in Hangleton

The Argus revealed on November 17 that 266 council houses sat empty. Since then, the number of empty council houses in the city has increased to 284 as of December 13, which means the council is losing around £305 per month from each of the empty houses.

A council spokesman said in November that they were repairing 185 of the properties that were empty in October and also hired more contractors to speed up the process.

Since employing more contractors, the council stated that this was having an “impact” - with 117 properties let between August and November.

More recently, the council said it has experienced "difficulties" in carrying out repairs but has now hired 32 staff members to help deal with the backlog of 8,801 repairs in council houses.

A council spokesman said: "We have experienced some difficulties in carrying out repairs to empty homes arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, having contractors in place, contractor availability and staffing vacancies.

"We also have a significant number of empty properties requiring major works as opposed to light or standard works before they are re-let.

"This has led to homes being empty for longer than we would like, and hence the rent being lost on these homes.

"With additional staff in place we will be in a good position to deal more speedily with the backlog of repairs, which includes repairs to empty properties.

In terms of the amount of rent lost, the council said it has a "recovery plan".

The spokesman said: "These figures are gross and do not exclude any costs associated with providing landlord services.

"A recovery plan to reduce voids resulting from covid and the industrial dispute and the associated rent loss was reported to housing committee. If successful, the rent loss from voids should fall on a quarter-by-quarter basis."

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