Self-painting kits will be given to new tenants instead of cash as part of a new policy to reduce the time council homes are empty.
East Lothian Council’s new Voids Management Policy was approved at a council cabinet meeting in Haddington on Tuesday.
These include plans to replace its current policy of paying cash to new tenants to compensate for poorly decorated housing. Instead, a DIY decoration pack will be issued.
The move was widely supported in a recent survey of current tenants, after the council said it could be more cost-effective than the current scheme which saw it hand out around £142,000 in total in 2017/18.
The cash policy saw tenants paying between £60 and £75 for each substandard room.
A three-bedroom property can have a ‘move-in bonus’ of as much as £465.
Often, however, that money would be cut due to outstanding debts owed by new tenants – which would leave them unable to afford the work.
The council said: “For these reasons we are proposing a change to a decoration pack scheme for new tenants. Tenants will receive a paint package according to the size of their property.
“The paint pack will include all the decorating supplies needed, e.g. paint brushes, rollers, fillers, etc. which will be delivered to their property.
“Tenants will also be able to choose paint from a color chart from a dedicated range.”
Cabinet members were told that the policy review had gone through a public consultation with more than 1,200 responses received.
The scheme will be introduced next April. Efforts to reduce the number of empty council homes have reduced vacancies from 177 in March 2018 to 108 in March this year.
The council also reported an increase in the number of homes reoccupied within three months from 60.5 per cent to 76 per cent over the same period.
Councilors said they often heard concerns from residents who saw empty homes and didn’t understand why they weren’t filled.
They welcomed the revised policy and continued work to reduce the number of empty homes.
Councilor Jim Goodfellow, cabinet spokesman for housing, said: “Having 1,200 responses to the consultation is nothing to sneeze at – it’s quite a significant return.
“I’m really pleased that we’re starting to make a big dent in our voids and improving wait times for a new home to less than three months.
“We have a good policy in front of us.”
Fellow cabinet member Councilor Fiona O’Donnell also welcomed the revised policy, adding: “It’s going to mean people move into a new home with their families sooner.”
The cabinet unanimously approved the policy.