EXETER City Council has submitted planning applications for seven of their own Laings Easiform properties.
The seven homes, on what is known as the Buddle Lane estate, are empty and the proposal is to demolish and rebuild them.
Planning applications for a further 10 of these properties are expected by the end of the month.
Local councillor Paul Bull explained the background: “The Laing Easiform method of construction consists of cast-in-situ concrete cavity walls, most of which have failed over time because of the expansion of steel reinforcement or movement. That said, there has never been any risk to tenants.
“In the 1990s, Exeter City Council formed a partnership with Sovereign Housing and used a trickle transfer agreement whereby the housing association took the properties on a 125-year lease and refurbished them using government grants as and when they became available. “More than 100 homes were renovated in this way.
“In 2010 the grants dried up, and the city council looked to new ways to improve the remaining 21 properties. Three were refurbished by the city council when they became vacant.
“However, pressures on the Housing Revenue Account meant this wasn’t a cost effective way of proceeding with the remaining 20 – one having been sold off in December 2014.”
Cllr Bull added: “The aim of the proposals is to demolish the existing properties which have been structurally condemned and replace them with new properties which comply with modern day standards and are more thermally efficient.
“The front elevation will remain mostly unaffected in terms of appearance and the layout has been developed to provide each property with a ground floor WC, kitchen/diner, lounge, first-floor bathroom and three bedrooms.”
Fellow local councillor, Hannah PacKham added: “With tenders for the work coming soon, work is expected to start in early August.
“The plan is to have a staggered start – one property every three weeks, and it is expected that the total works will take 18 months.
“The whole project is based on the need to have 10 vacant properties at any one time and this is be achieved with a combination of permanent and temporary moves while the new homes are being built.
“It’s good to see progress being made at long last.
“There have been delays to the programme caused by the work needed to remedy the water ingress in some of the council’s properties due to the winter storms two years ago, and I was worried that the government’s planned changes to the housing revenue account might delay the works even more.”
Cllr Packham added: “When the city council has such a robust Empty Homes Strategy in the private sector, it is essential we set an example with our own social housing.”