Managing Director Ad Hoc Property Management says Local Government is sitting on nearly 25,000 vacant properties that could alleviate housing crisis and budget pressures
The Local Government Association (LGA) is warning that projected tax rises won’t address the emerging £5bn funding gap within the sector. As local authorities finalise their council tax plans and budgets for the year, the MD of Ad Hoc Property Management says more local authorities should be looking to significantly reduce the costs of managing their vacant buildings and the knock-on effect they create.
Simon Finneran is Managing Director of Ad Hoc, one of the UK’s most established vacant property management companies and a pioneer of the ‘Property Guardian’ model in the UK and across Europe. He says that only a small percentage of local authorities have fully to realise the cost-saving – and social benefits of using property guardians or technology like Smart camera security towers to protect and maintain their vacant buildings. In England alone, local councils own more than 23,000 empty homes- an average of 87 per council, according to a study by online estate agent eMoov.co.uk. These empty homes are a target for theft, vandalism and anti-social behaviour – and can also be put to good use if approached flexibly, as with Ad Hoc’s novel approach.
Mr Finneran’s vacant property security business has offices throughout the UK and is currently managing hundreds of properties across the whole country on behalf of property owners, including local authorities, using a combination of mobile ‘Smart camera security towers and alarms’ and ‘Guardians’. These Guardians, numbering several thousand throughout England, Scotland and Wales, are working professionals on flexible licenses, who benefit from affordable, flexible living close to where they work. That not only regenerates local areas and economies, but can save councils thousands of pounds a month in security, insurance premiums and reduced emergency call-out charges.
“When Councils contrast the insurance premiums on empty buildings, plus other costs including manned security and higher taxes, they quickly see that having a responsible company managing their vacant properties effectively can save them significant monthly sums. At the same time, the Guardian solution can help, in part, alleviate local housing issues and create employment and the rejuvenation of local areas. Property guardianship and smart vacant property management need to be higher up the agenda to help local government tackle their budget issues.”
Finneran goes on, “Virtually every local council in the UK is relying on private landlords to assist in the supply of much needed social housing and yet many of them are sitting on empty buildings that would make ideal accommodation for property guardians. Ad Hoc’s Licensees are vetted and in full-time employment, responsible individuals living in empty properties in exchange for very competitive monthly license fees, an arrangement that often helps them to save towards a mortgage deposit. With budget cuts and austerity to the fore and public services being squeezed, we need to do more to help the public sector with its finances – and we can.”
It is estimated this year that ninety-five percent of local authorities in England are due to raise their council tax by at least three percent, (according to the 2018 state of local government finance research).
Some local authorities are already actively championing the benefits of the Ad Hoc model, but many more could benefit if some of the red tape was cut.