The number of empty council houses in Wrexham has risen amid efforts to carry out more extensive repairs, a new report has shown.
Figures released by Wrexham Council show 447 of its properties are currently vacant out of a total of more than 11,000, which equates to four per cent.
It compares to 281 at the same stage last year and follows the introduction of stricter standards for refurbishing homes once tenants leave.
In a report to backbench councillors, the authority admitted the new approach had seen external contractors struggling to keep pace.
However the lead member for housing said tenant satisfaction had risen since the changes were implemented.
Cllr David Griffiths (Ind) said: “The lettable standard has resulted in a significant increase in the extent of the works being undertaken to properties both internally and externally.
“As a consequence, the number of empty properties has continued to increase.
“Because of the extent of the work, contractors have struggled to secure the appropriate resources required to deliver the volume of work required.
“Whilst it is very easy to get caught up in all the ongoing issues surrounding the delivery of the new lettable standard, it is also very important not to lose sight of the quality of the properties that are now being provided for the new tenants.
“This has already lead to improved tenant satisfaction as properties are refurbished to higher standard and are free from major defects.”
In the last 12 months, 568 properties have been brought up to the improved standard, which equates to just over five per cent of the council’s total housing stock.
Around £10.8 million has been earmarked to carry out work to empty houses in the current financial year, £3.1m of which has already been spent.
Cllr Griffiths said it was important that tenants looked after their homes because of how much money was being put in. He added that the authority would try to reduce its use of outside companies to undertake the improvements.
He said: “Whilst officers continue to meet with contractors on a daily basis to try to improve performance it is still proving to be extremely challenging and although the new standard has resulted in a much improved property for the tenant it has had a negative effect on the void performance, increasing turnaround times significantly.
“Due its complex nature, the empty property refurbishment process continues to develop almost on a weekly basis as different challenges arise.
“The department is committed to increasing and developing the internal workforce to undertake the larger voids and to reduce the reliance on external contractors.
“Given the significant investment that is being made in each property, it is very important to ensure that the incoming tenant looks after the property and the housing officers provide support and guidance for the tenant to ensure that they comply with the terms of their tenancy.”
The report will be considered by members of the council’s homes and environment scrutiny committee at a meeting at Wrexham’s Guildhall tomorrow.
By Liam Randall – BBC Local Democracy Reporter (more here on the LDR scheme).
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