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Eric Pickles calls on councils to sell vacant homes

Communities secretary Eric Pickles has called on councils across the country to sell vacant properties and reinvest the money in affordable homes.He said the sale of just one high-value council house could have a significant impact, funding more affordable home construction, increasing supply and reducing social housing waiting lists."Councils across the country are sitting on millions of pounds that could be put to far better use and get them building elsewhere in the area," the communities secretary stated."Instead of holding that money as equity in expensive empty properties, the councils should sell up those vacant buildings and reinvest the money to get the country building."New rules have been announced by the government to reduce social housing waiting lists, which have already halved since 2010.From April next year councils will have to publish the most recent valuation of their social housing stock every year to ensure it is being put to its best use.Published by postcode, the information will include details of the value of the properties, how many are occupied and how many are standing empty.As a result, people will be better equipped to ask questions about their council's management of the housing stock. They will also be able to see how selling more expensive homes could provide the funds for councils to build more houses and reduce waiting times.It would be possible for the council to sell their higher-value empty properties without affecting tenants' rights.Southwark council was able to sell off one of its council homes for £3 million and this was used to help fund the building of 20 new properties across the borough.A range of measures has been introduced by the government since 2010 to ensure the best possible use is made of social housing.Action has been taken to combat social housing tenancy fraud, while councils have been encouraged to publish details of who is applying for and getting social housing in their area, as well as full details of how they allocate their homes, to increase confidence in the system. 

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