By Robert Firth, local democracy reporter
More than 1,000 council homes have been lying empty for over a year in a South London borough – even though 16,000 people are waiting for a home.
A Freedom of Information request revealed 1,005 properties owned by Southwark Council have been without tenants for more than 12 months.
The borough currently has more than 16,000 people on the housing waiting list and 3,300 families living in temporary accommodation.
Most of the empty properties vacant for more than a year are on the Aylesbury Estate in Walworth, a total of 667 houses.
They are all due to be demolished as part of an on-going regeneration scheme. Southwark Council agreed to spend an additional £29 million on its redevelopment at a meeting earlier this year.
Hundreds of flats in Ledbury Towers in Peckham and Maydew House in Rotherhithe have been vacant for over 12 months. Southwark Council is refurbishing both estates.
There are 1,332 council homes currently without tenants in Southwark.
Of those, 169 properties have been empty for less than three months, 87 have been vacant for between three and six months and 71 have been without tenants for between six months and a year.
Southwark Council is the largest local authority landlord in London
It has promised to build 11,000 new council homes by 2043 – the UK’s largest council house building programme. The local authority is due to finish construction of 2,500 of these this year.
Cllr Stephanie Cryan, cabinet member for council homes, said: “The vast majority of empty council-owned homes are related to major refurbishment or estate redevelopments, particularly schemes like the Aylesbury, Ledbury and Tustin Estates, as well as those we need vacant for fire safety works. These account for 1,001 long-term empty council homes.
“The remainder of empty council homes is less than one per cent of our 37,000 council homes that varies day by day as residents move in and out.
“These properties need re-decorating or improvements to bring them up to our high standards before they are re-let. We have targets to bring them back in to use as soon as possible.”
Cllr Darren Merrill, cabinet member for a safer, ceaner borough, said: “Empty housing in Southwark, as across London, is a problem predominantly driven by the private sector. As a council, we have limited direct powers to intervene, but we are using every tool at our disposal to encourage landlords to use their property as a much-needed home.
“Our empty homes action plan has seen success with over 230 homes brought back into use last financial year and we expect another 160 this year.
“We have plans to set aside £2 million to compulsory purchase long-term empty homes, pending cabinet approval. This will be a revolving fund as costs will be recouped from the sale of the properties.”