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15 June 2011, Huge turnaround sees ‘country village’ of empty homes brought back into use

New figures released today show that Lambeth London Living is winning the battle to turn a backlog of empty properties into homes for families.

Nearly seven hundred households in Lambeth have been given the keys to a 'new' council home over the past 12 months, following a major drive to bring empty and dilapidated properties up to scratch and back into use.

Lambeth London Living Chief Executive, Neil Litherland said: “It is great that in the past year we have brought nearly 700 empty homes back in to use – that’s the size of a country village”.

Cllr. Lib Peck, Lambeth Council cabinet member for housing said: “This is great news for Lambeth tenants and is a result of sustained pressure from cabinet members and a determined focus on improving performance. Tackling Lambeth’s empty properties problem is one of our top priorities and will continue to be”.

The turnaround in performance sees Lambeth London Living on track to reduce the number of empty homes in the borough to around one per cent of its housing stock – well below the industry standard of two per cent. It manages approximately 34,000 properties and is London’s largest arms length management organisation.

The majority of empty properties were empty because they’d been awaiting major repairs or refurbishment. The reduction was achieved in the main by selling properties that were beyond economic repair, to generate extra funds to repair empty properties. For every one property sold, it was possible to bring another 11 back into use for homeless families, people on the housing register either waiting for a council home or needing to transfer to a new one.

Over the course of the last year (2010/11) a total of 63 properties were sold generating £12.8m to bring 688 long term empty properties back into use.

A thorough review of processes and contracts was also carried out, and changes made to enable staff to fast-track organising repairs, refurbishing, and re-letting of empty properties.

The decisive changes Lambeth London Living has made to reduce void property numbers and maintain performance include:

  • Setting up dedicated voids team in each of the three areas which has surveyors and letting staff working side by side
  • One officer in each area given the responsibility to manage the void turnaround process and call time on any party not meeting their targets
  • Weekly meetings with the voids contractor in each area, with local managers empowered to take decisions to improve void performance
  • Maintaining a momentum on void performance, which means among other things other staff being flexible to provide support where needed
  • High staff commitment to meeting the target, including at times staff conducting viewings and sign ups over weekends

The council also supported Lambeth London Living by speeding up the allocations process to ensure the properties can be let as quickly as possible.

For more information contact Andrea Lake at the Lambeth London Living press office on 020 7926 2739.