Rental income from Powys Council houses rises

RENTAL income from Powys County Council houses has gone up by £570,000 and is due to quicker turnaround in making properties ready for new tenants.

At a meeting of Governance and Audit committee on Friday, June 23 members were given and update on “housing voids” which follows on from a previous investigation by internal auditors SWAP from 2019.

Voids clearance is a process where the council has a set number of days to clear a council house and make it ready for new tenants, once former tenants leave or die.

In the past, it had been expected to have a house be ready for the next tenant in 17 days.

The process was done by Heart of Wales Property Services (HOWPS) on behalf of the council.

The work on maintaining the council’s assets was taken back inhouse by the council a year ago.

Interim head of housing Andy Thompson said: “Since July 2022 all void works are now managed and delivered by our own workforce.

“The average time for void works has reduced from 165 days to 84 days – still a long way to go, but quite a major improvement.

“That represents a reduction in rent loss of £1248 per void.”

Mr Thompson added that on average there’s are 450 house voids to deal with each year.

Mr Thompson said: “It also means we’re turning around homes quicker for people registered for social housing, and there are 4800 people registered at the moment.”

“These turnarounds are decreasing, and we are confident there will be further savings.”

Deputy council leader and portfolio holder for housing Labour’s Cllr Matthew Dorrance said: “We found the SWAP report really helpful to shine a light on where we need to improve.

“We are realistic about the challenge and have to understand that we have considerably older (housing) stock than we’d like.”

Cllr Dorrance added that the lack of building council houses for several decades meant that the housing stock condition has been deteriorating.

Cllr Dorrance said: “Having gone to see some of the voids in the county I’m more aware now of the condition they come back in, and some require significant work in order to make them fit for habitation.

“The team has done really well – we’ve since a reduction of 81 days in the void turnaround period and we think that has increased collected rent by around £570,000.

“Clearly we are going in the right direction – but there is much more for us to do.”

Liberal Democrat Cllr William Powell said that the findings of the report tally “very much” with what councillors experienced of knowing of properties in their wards taking “absurd amounts of time” to turnaround.

Cllr Powell said: “We are moving in the right direction and will have to keep that momentum up.

“The move away from HOWPS has been critical in that.

Lay member and committee chairwoman, Lynne Hamilton said: “There is a sense of team Powys which perhaps had been lost during the HOWPS experience.”

HOWPS was a joint venture between the council and Kier construction firm which carried out repairs and maintenance on Powys’ housing stock – 5,400 homes and 630 other properties including schools.

The partnership was terminated in July 2022 and around 150 workers were transferred back to work for Powys.

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