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Council’s property refurbishment programme impacted by rising inflation

SOARING material costs are having an impact on the budget for refurbishing Wrexham Council’s housing stock.
A report to the authority’s Homes and Environment scrutiny committee which meets next week outlines the progress made in refurbing council homes, and bringing empty properties, knowns as ‘voids’,  up to standard and back into use.
The report, which will be presented by deputy lead member for housing, Pant and Johnstown Cllr David A Bithell (Ind) says more time and investment is now taken in refurbishing void properties, to reduce more frequent repairs being needed in future.
Lettable standards agreed by the Wrexham Tenant and Member Partnership should mean newly- refurbed council properties are free from plastering defects, damp and any structural issues.

David Bithell

The report states: “Traditionally, when a property became ‘void’ it was turned around as quickly as possible with the minimum investment.
“However, this led to a significant number of ongoing reactive repairs and generally poor customer experience for the tenant.
“It is important to highlight that the majority of properties are undergoing major refurbishment works and should not be classified as a void property in the traditional sense.”
There are fewer properties currently being refurbished than there were at the time of the last report two years ago.
“In terms of live properties that are under repair, this is 294 properties (December 2022), which has reduced by 231 properties as the live voids under repair in December 2020 was 525”, the report states.
“This is a reduction of 44 per cent.
“The lettable standard was introduced in December 2016. To date, 3,523 properties have been refurbished to this new, high quality standard. This equates to 32 per cent of the housing stock.
“The refurbishment total from December 2016 is 4,155, however this includes sheltered units which have not been fully refurbished.
“Since the introduction of the new standards in December 2016, there has been only 247 of the 4,155 properties that have been empty more than once. This suggests that the objective of creating more sustainable tenancies is working.”
The report highlights some of the challenges which have impacted the council’s refurbishment of properties in the last couple of years.
These include the pandemic which caused logistical problems, and rampant inflation causing the price of materials to soar which has also impacted the construction industry as a whole.
It adds: “There has been a significant investment into this programme since it was agreed to have a whole house approach and this continues to be the case. However, there has been some budget pressures during the last two years.
“Since the onset of the pandemic, material prices have soared. Construction material prices rose in 11 of the 12 months of 2021, with only the smallest of respites in November 2021, when prices stayed constant.
“All the major economies of the world closed down during Covid and then reopened at different times, which caused different supply and demand curves. Generally, the construction industry has witnessed a 20 per cent price increase in the last two years.”
Members of the scrutiny committee will give their feedback on the update when they meet on Wednesday (January 18).