VACANT properties are to be brought up to scratch and made available for letting to meet a “significant” housing need.

Flintshire Council’s housing overview and scrutiny committee backed calls for work to be carried out on the county’s empty homes and not see them sold.

The move will see the department find efficiencies within the housing revenue account budget.

Although the plans initially focus on four long-term empty properties, Cllr Bernie Attridge believes the strategy will go on to cover several others in the county in the coming years.

He said: “This has got to be good news for Flintshire.”

The issue has been debated at a time when there is significant housing need in Flintshire.

There are currently just over 2,800 applications on the county’s housing register, with 92 on the affordable homeownership register.

Cllr Stella Jones backed Cllr Attridge’s proposal for the properties to be retained, repaired and re-let rather than selling them.

She said: “There are hundreds on the waiting list [for new homes]. I couldn’t look any of them in the eye if we think of selling to them to a developer.”

The council has considered working with Deeside College and using trainee labour, which would help reduce labour costs.

However, supervision is necessary and the council is aware Deeside College staff may not be available to monitor the workers due to their other work commitments.

Clare Budden, Flintshire’s head of housing, said the use of trainees in dealing with the proposals should be performed on a trial basis only.

She said: “Our recommendation would be to try it out on one property and see how it goes.”

The four empty homes  discussed at the meeting were three-bedroomed properties in Elm Drive, Mold; Y Dreflan, Mostyn; Hope Road, Broughton and Woodfield Avenue, Flint, and it is expected that each will cost more than £15,000 to bring back into letting condition.

Speaking after the meeting, Flintshire’s executive member for housing, Helen Brown, said the number of people on the housing register had fallen in recent years and was lower than in other areas.

She said her major concern was the imminent impact of welfare reform by central government, which she fears could lead to residents facing a struggle to make ends meet.

She said: “My big concern at the moment is the implications of welfare reform going ahead.

“They will be changing the boundaries and I can see this causing problems for a lot of people. But we as a council are doing everything we can to deal with it and are preparing for its full impact.”

Committee chairman Cllr Ron Hampson said he feared homeless levels would increase due to the ongoing economic problems but he believed the authority was working hard to deal with the current situation.