A Highland Councillor says the local authority is missing out on vital income from rent and council tax by letting janitor’s houses go to ruin across the region.
Inverness South member Duncan Macpherson said with the council housing waiting list currently topping 8,000, homes are being denied to people who need it, and good buildings are left to deteriorate.
The council is shortly to demolish two janitor’s houses at Culloden Academy as part of the expansion of the school.
Mr Macpherson claimed the two houses are not even in the expansion site.
He said: “One of the houses was empty for 10 years, one for nine years.
“We’ve lost council tax and rent and if you take an average council tax and average rent, multiply it by the combined 19 years, there is enough money there to pay the salary for a year of the first minister and prime minister.
“Surely with the wit of man we can write a contract to rent theses houses, whether it’s to teachers, or council employees for example.”
A Highland spokeswoman said: “The former janitor’s houses at Culloden Academy were previously reviewed by the council as unsuitable for sale, nor were they let as private residencies as they were located within the curtilage of the school grounds with no opportunity to create separation or private access distinct from the school grounds.”
Mr Macpherson highlighted a janitor’s house on Planefield Road, next to the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders hall and directly behind Central primary school.
He said: “The three bedroom home is in a pleasant and quiet location, and is now boarded up.
“For the want of some investment, it could be rented out.”
Housing and property committee chairman councillor Ben Thompson said a number of janitor’s or school houses are unoccupied as they are so close to school buildings, but there have been some success stories.
He said: “In some cases the old houses have been able to be separated from the school estate and used for much needed housing, or even offices.
“Lochaber High School is a good example – what was staff and pupil accommodation is now private houses and council offices.”
He went on: “But it is frustrating to see unused public buildings that may still be costing the taxpayer.
“Given the extreme pressure for housing in some Highland areas, the council needs to be smarter about its property assets.”
A council review of all its existing buildings will help accelerate redevelopment or disposal of some of these legacy buildings, he said.
The council says it has 28 janitor’s houses, of which 12 are currently unoccupied and cannot be let as secure tenancies as they lie within the curtilage of a school.
“Six are scheduled for demolition as part of planned capital projects or redevelopment of campuses, and it is proposed that a further two are transferred to the housing revenue account once works are carried out to allow them to become secure tenancies.
“Alternative uses are being explored for the remaining four properties, including possible conversion for school or community use.”