Calls for review of council homes

A ward councillor wants to know why seven City-owned houses in Oakdale have been standing empty, one of them for as long as five years.

At its meeting on Monday May 15, Sub-council 6 backed Ward 3 councillor Brendan van der Merwe’s motion calling for a review of all the empty houses.

Mr Van der Merwe said he had had several complaints from Oakdale residents about the houses. These had related to the costs of hiring security guards to protect the empty homes, poor maintenance, expired leases, illegal occupation, sub-letting and delayed evictions.

Stuart Diamond, mayoral committee member for assets and facilities management, told Northern News there were two empty houses in Maree Street, three in Barnard Street, one in Avondale Road and one in John X Merrimen Road.

One has been vacant since 2012, two since 2013, two since 2015, one since 2016 and one since earlier this year.

“Some of the properties had been reserved for City and external projects, but were later handed back to the property management department for tenanting,” he said.

Oakdale Watch chairman Tommy Milakovic said residents had complained about general maintenance at the properties.

“The complaints are mainly about mowing of the lawn and the general neatness of the properties,” he said.

Mr Diamond said clauses about maintenance were included in the leases but differed from one lease to another. In some cases, the City was only responsible for external maintenance, while in other cases the lessee was responsible for both inside and outside upkeep.

“As a standard practice, when the property becomes vacant, the City conducts additional repairs to ensure the new tenant takes occupation of a property that conforms to market standards,” he said.

Mr Diamond said the City had to follow due process in cases of illegal occupation, which was the case with one of the seven houses.

Mr Milakovic said the watch had withdrawn an application to rent one of the empty properties after learning it was to be used for council staff.

Mr Diamond said a report on the empty houses would be submitted to sub-council. The City wanted to get tenants for the houses as soon as possible.He said 24-hour security was necessary to protect the City’s assets from vandalism.

In his motion, Mr Van der Merwe recommended an investigation into vacancy schedules, the type of lease contracts and agreements in place, expiry and renewal of leases, security costs and maintenance schedules. He wanted the results of the probe to be submitted to sub-council in August.