Stoke on Trent Council have employed specialist contractors to check empty homes for asbestos, but instead of the job taking just a couple of days it is taking five weeks!
The reason, they say, is that there are delays in obtaining asbestos management reports for the void council houses, supposedly because of a change in contractors.
The knock on effect is that the time taken to get the empty homes back into occupation is increasing by almost a week, and now taking more than 55 days.
The end result means that the council are losing rental money and having to spend more money on providing temporary accommodation for council house residents, and it also means longer delays for the people on the council’s waiting list for council housing.
The Council are doing what they can to try and resolve the problem by continuing to carry out checks for asbestos, and have said they have come up with a plan to deal with the void properties.
Carl Brazier, The Council’s Housing director, said, “There are currently three or four different teams involved in void turnarounds. We’re going to bring them all together under one roof and have all the staff at Smithfield.”
He went onto say, “I think we can put more effort in terms of void turnarounds. Should we be modernising a void property, if we will be remodelling the whole estate within two or three years? I think we need to be cleverer than that.”
“It could be done up to a lesser standard, with the tenant offered first refusal on properties once the remodelling is done.”
Empty properties that are in high demand will most likely be prioritised for turnaround rather than those homes that are less popular.
In September 2015 there were a total of 280 void council homes, whereas in September 2016 that number had risen dramatically to 375.
The cost to bring a void council property back into use currently stands at £3,616 and takes a total of 55.3 days.
The council have a contract with Kier that expires in 2018, after which they plan on going back to having their own in-house maintenance team.
This should make things easier when it comes to dealing with void properties.
Gary Hall, Strategic housing Manager said, “Our officers and our partners at Kier are looking at the asbestos issue. But the voids turnaround situation is still not where it was. I think that once we have full control over voids things will improve.”
Current figures show that a total of 2,680 people consisting of families and single people within Stoke-on-Trent are on the waiting list for a council house.
55 per cent of these people are requesting a one bedroom home.
Jim Gibson, Tenants board member and chairman of Chell Heath Residents’ Association said, “The tenants board raised concerns over the asbestos issue and we’ve been told that the situation is improving, but we’ll have to wait for the latest figures to see if that is the case.”
He added, “There is a huge demand for social housing and the council has always seemed to take too long to bring empty homes back into use. If there isn’t a health and safety issue I can’t see why they can’t be handed straight over to a new tenant. If there are minor repairs needed, they can be done afterwards. That might help bring down the waiting list.”
Duty holders and employers have a legal responsibility to manage asbestos in their building so as not to put employees at risk. Contact our Armco office for asbestos management and refurbishment/ demolition surveys on 0161 763 3727 or by visiting https://www.armco.org.uk/
Alternatively, to book onto one of our asbestos training courses, please call 0161 761 4424 or visit https://www.armcoasbestostraining.co.uk/
Published Dec 21, 2016