Empty council houses show ‘contempt for families in need’ in Sheffield

Houses. Photo credit should read: Rui Vieira/PA Wire
Houses. Photo credit should read: Rui Vieira/PA Wire
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Sheffield Council has been accused of showing ‘contempt for families in need’ after figures reveal the authority had more than 60 council houses empty for more than 100 days, despite thousands of people bidding for housing.

The figures show 66 council houses were left unrented for a collective 8,321 days, losing £117,956 in uncollected rent.

This is despite an average of 15,493 people bidding for a council house every year between 2009 and 2014, according to a Freedom of Information Act submitted by The Star under our Your Right To Know campaign earlier this year.

The figures reveal a two-bed house on Edenhall Road, Arbourthorne, was offered to 71 prospective tenants – but was rejected every time, leaving it empty for 196 days.

Of the rejections, 59 were due to the area and one was down to the ‘poor condition’ of the property.

Two flats on Whitethorns View, Batemoor, were vacant for 490 days collectively – losing £2,712 in rent.

Sheffield Liberal Democrat spokesman for housing Coun Steve Ayris accused the council of showing ‘utter incompetence’.

He said: “Most people understand that a few properties left vacant for a few weeks due to repairs and maintenance is to be expected.

“But these figures obtained by The Star show the Labour Council showing not only utter incompetence but also contempt for those people and families in desperate need of an affordable home in Sheffield.

“It isn’t just the scandal of over £100,000 of lost revenue but also the anguish of local people on the waiting list who can’t get a council house.

“Labour have no one but their own lack of action and leadership to blame for this.

“After all they took the decision to manage housing directly again and it is clear they are not up to the job, and those waiting for a home deserve better.”

In total, Sheffield Council lost £117,956.99 in rent it could have collected on the empty houses.

The figures were accurate for the 100 days leading up to September 14, 2015.

The reasons for the properties being left empty ranged from repair work, the area and a police incident.

A property on Greenland Drive, Darnall, was left vacant for more than 322 days after it was the scene of a murder and held by police.

A three-bed house on Tideswell Road, Firth Park, was left empty for 147 days after it was rejected 17 times by prospective tenants, with six rejected due to poor condition and three citing the house was too small.

Sheffield Council stressed that it has now rented out half of the 66 properties in the figures.

A Sheffield Council spokesperson said: “This isn’t simply a case of income lost. It’s about making sure our properties are fit for purpose and are desirable for tenants.

“More than half of the properties that have been empty for longer are ones we’re refurbishing or carrying out major work on.

“Carrying out this work, and buying homes that need work done to them, is part of our plan to increase council housing stock.

“We always knew work would be needed before these properties were let so it is not the case that we’re missing rent income that we were expecting.

“A smaller number of properties are harder to let than others and we’re working with tenants to get feedback about these.

“Our figures on empty properties have been reducing over recent years and this is partly down to this work.

“We take these issues into account when acquiring new properties. Our figures are in line with what other authorities are seeing.”