Poll: Babergh council plans to sell off rural housing after houses stand empty for up to six months

Babergh could sell rural council houses

COUNCIL houses in rural parts of the Babergh district could be sold off despite a high demand for housing in the area.

In a recent council report, the local authority admitted it was difficult to get tenants into properties in remote locations.

Babergh currently has six empty houses in the district, and one three-bedroom property in Blacksmiths Lane, Thorpe Morieux has been vacant for more than six months.

Babergh and Mid Suffolk District councils head of housing, Martin King said, out of the six council houses currently being unused, four were in rural areas. He said demand varied according to the amenities and transport links available, adding: “Generally, there is no difficulty in filling accommodation for families and people of working age, but it is older persons’ housing that can sometimes be hard to let in the more remote areas.”

But a Thorpe Morieux resident told the EADT the property had been ‘left to deteriorate’ for almost seven months. He said: “I know there can be problems getting older people to take houses in rural areas because of the transport issue, but this is a big house that would suit a family.

“It seems really mad that people are supposedly crying out for homes in this area, when this one has been standing empty for so long.”

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A council spokeswoman said the house was currently unoccupied because it required a ‘full overhaul’ to reach a lettable standard, including planning and building regulation approval for external insulation.

Mr King said low demand for rural properties was a problem experienced by many housing authorities. But he said Babergh would sell its rural properties if it failed to lease them.

He added: “The council takes a strategic approach to asset management. Where a dwelling exceeds the norm in terms of maintenance costs, we will consider whether it should be converted for alternative use, or even sold on the open market and replaced with a more conventional property in an area of high demand.

“This approach is adopted across both Babergh and Mid Suffolk councils as the integrated housing service seeks to optimise both rental income and expenditure on the housing stock.”

Babergh has had an ongoing programme since 2005 to review its sheltered housing policy. This has included the introduction of local lettings policies for some schemes, which allow people over the age of 55 - rather than the minimum age of 60 - to occupy properties.