Southwold council house could be rented out privately or become a holiday let
PUBLISHED: 11:35 01 April 2019 | UPDATED: 12:14 02 April 2019
An empty council house in Southwold could be rented out to holidaymakers or private tenants - despite the fact about 5,000 people are on the local authority's waiting list.
East Suffolk Council (ES) said its preferred option for the property at 54 North Road is for it to be made available for private rented housing after “unauthorised” work by a previous tenant made the property “problematic”.
However, emails seen by this newspaper suggest it is also considering a number of other options, including making it available for holiday lets.
A decision over the site’s future was held off until after the former Waveney District Council merged with Suffolk Coastal District Council to form the East Suffolk Council on April 1.
However David Beavan, district councillor for Southwold and Reydon, said he would be particularly concerned to see it become a holiday let when the Waveney area of East Suffolk currently has 5,000 people on its council house waiting list. “The council has got a big hole in its budget and it is looking for ways to make up the hole in funding,” Mr Beavan said.
“This is not the right way to fill in the hole.”
He added: “If it is good enough for a holiday let it is good enough for a permanent resident.”
Mr Beavan said he appreciated the house was not being sold off, but stressed that Southwold is already out of reach for many young people and families looking to get on the housing ladder.
An East Suffolk spokesman said: “The preferred option would most likely be for the property to be made available for privately rented housing and this will be determined by the new council in due course.”
The council claimed “unauthorised” work carried out on the property by previous tenants meant that it had become “problematic” and so had not yet been placed on Homechoice – the lettings system for social housing.
The spokesman added that it had been forced to re-advertise homes in Southwold, as there had been a lack of bids made for its properties.
He said that any money generated would be used to fund services and meet local need.
“In the past three years, 40% of properties in the town have been let to people without clear housing need – indicating low affordable housing requirements in the town,” the spokesman said.
What are the council considering?
Plans for the new East Suffolk Council to offer holiday lets have already been considered in its proposed Capital Strategy for 2019/20 to 2022/23.
The document outlines plans for the new council to create what is known as a local authority trading company or LATCO as part of its commercial investment strategy.
The company would try to compete with local letting agents by dealing with a range of areas including leisure service which it specifies as holiday lets and beach huts.
The council said that using properties either for holiday let or private rent in this way would help to generate revenue for the council to fund services and meet local need.
It also said that it was important not to sell more properties in Southwold, as had been the case with previous ‘surplus’ properties so that the creation of new second homes in the area could be avoided.