9:54am Wednesday 20th January 2010
By Matt Watts
The number of empty council houses has rocketed by over 20 per cent in just nine months, while thousands of residents languish on the council housing waiting list.
Some 1,078 homes in Lambeth Council's housing stock are empty, an increase of 183 since April. In addition, the number of squatted properties has surged by 20 per cent, increasing from 127 to 157.
Lambeth Living, the company charged with managing Lambeth's housing stock, is missing its targets to bring empty properties that need superficial work to be brought back in to use by a disastrous 68 per cent.
The figures are despite a projected surge in income from a 14 per cent increase in rents last year - the largest increase in the UK.
Lib Dem parliamentary candidate Chris Nicholson branded the latest figures "shocking" and said the Labour council and Government were "letting down" the 17,000 residents on the borough's social housing waiting list.
He said the loss of rent from so many empty properties was pushing the rents for tenants up.
Lambeth Living is losing £563,040 a year from rent for failing to meet its targets for short cycle voids - homes needing superficial work to make them suitable for use - and a further £767,341 for long-cycle voids - homes needing more extensive repairs - according to a new report.
In total it had targeted to bring a further 241 homes back into use in the past nine months A Lambeth Living spokeswoman said: "We have to work within our budgets and we are working hard to reduce the number of empty properties across the borough.
"We are re-investing income from the disposal of empty properties that were beyond economic repair to refurbish other empty properties. For every one property sold, at least four empty properties can be brought back into use.
"Lambeth Living is currently working towards a target of bringing just over 300 empty homes up to the Government’s decent homes standard by the end of March 2010 and is spending £7m to achieve this".
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