FLINTSHIRE councillors have discussed what the next steps are for empty houses throughout the county - after a two year struggle due to various complications.

The Voids Action Plan was discussed during the Community and Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting held on Wednesday, March 8.

Empty properties or 'voids' happen when a tenant leaves one of the council's owned housing units.

That then creates an opportunity for the council to review, modernise and re-occupy these properties. 

This has a number of cross cutting service links through Housing Management, from the refurbishment of the void to prepare it for reoccupation and the re-letting of the property to those on the General Housing Register.

But, the pandemic, Brexit and the war in Ukraine have created a number of challenges for the council's Housing Service over the past two years in particular.

All of this has impacted on the progress of refurbishment works within empty properties throughout the county.

Challenges faced by the council included the availability of skilled resources, raw materials and linked price increases, all of which impacts negatively on void delivery and turnaround times.

The reasons behind the current void backlog, the challenges both pre and post-COVID that restricted the council operations, were captured in the previous report on voids presented to Scrutiny in late 2022, alongside planned activity to improve performance.

The Housing and Assets Service housing stock consists of around 7,300 properties.

The service refurbishes an average 550 empty properties annually, with works varying from minor to major general maintenance and repair works.

The average age of the council's housing stock is considered to be some of the oldest in the United Kingdom and they are also considerably older than many nearby Local Housing Associations' housing stock.

As a result, there are many challenges and obstacles that arise when completing refurbishment and capital investment works to these older properties.

The target timescales for the refurbishment of a property classified as a minor void is 20 working days and that figure is 45 working days for a major void.

Approximately 70% of current void properties are completed within the target period. Average costs for refurbishment of void properties range from £1,500 for a minor void to an average of £9,000 for a major void property. 

The previous contract arrangement meant the council only had access to one contractor. But, the re-tendering exercise will 'increase resilience', whilst ensuring newly procured contractors are held accountable to performance targets.

During the meeting this week, Housing Services manager Sean O'Donnell said the main target now was to 'address the backlog in voids and increase resilience' in terms of contractors.


Questions were raised over whether or not more regular inspections needed to be carried out in order to ensure that any damage done by tenants was kept to a minimum.

Committee chair Cllr Helen Brown said: "We need to protect the investment we put in. Most people look after their properties but there's an element of those that don't and these are the ones that will cost us thousands of pounds."

Sean O'Donnell replied by saying: "This is something that we really want to work hard on over the next few months. Any properties where tenants refuse access needs to be reported to housing management."

Councillors voted unanimously in favour of the recommendations put forward to address the challenges identified within the Voids Action Plan.