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Armed Forces: Housing

Volume 473: debated on Wednesday 12 March 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what steps are being taken by Defence Estates to reduce the number of void properties on the estate; what discussions he has had with Defence Estates on the practice of releasing information on the number of voids; what discussions he has had with HM Treasury on the spending of revenue from the sale of properties on the estate on service accommodation; what the cost of void properties was to his Department in the most recent period for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement; (192329)

(2) how many void properties there are in the Defence Estate; how many such properties have been void for (a) one year, (b) three years, (c) five years and (d) 10 years and over; how much of the £3 billion allocated by his Department to rent, routine costs and leasing of service accommodation he projects will be spent on rent in each of the next 10 years; how much was spent on maintenance and emergency repairs of void properties in each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement.

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) keeps its estate of around 240,000 hectares under continual review to ensure that it is no larger than is required for defence purposes. Details of all MOD properties that are currently void or have been void for the periods specified are not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

However, detailed records are held of void service family accommodation properties (SFA) in Great Britain (GB) and at 5 March 2008, there were 9,066 void properties out of a stock of some 49,000, of which, the following have been void for over a year.

Number of years

Number of properties

Between 1 year and 3 years


Between 3 years and 5 years


Between 5 years and 10 years


Over 10 years


The Department accepts that the remaining amount of void accommodation is unacceptably high and work is in hand to reduce this. Since March 2007, the total number of void SFA worldwide has reduced from 13,336 to 12,240 properties.

The Department is seeking to reduce the number of void SFA properties by seeking to maximise the number of properties that can be declared surplus to requirements, bringing forward decisions on the future use of sites and by reducing the number of properties retained in anticipation of agreed deployments.

No separate assessment of the cost of void properties is made. However, the majority of SFA in England and Wales is owned by Annington Homes Ltd. and an average rent of £3,500 per annum is payable. In Scotland, SFA is owned by the MOD and no rental charges are incurred. All GB SFA incur costs in respect of contributions in lieu of council tax, which averages £600 per void property per annum. Maintenance costs average £1,600 per property per annum. Minimal maintenance will be carried out where properties are due to be disposed of or are scheduled for major refurbishment.

Ministers are kept informed of estate matters on a regular basis and are routinely notified in advance of significant releases of information about the estate.

The projected breakdown of the £3 billion expenditure is as follows:

£ billion

Annington Homes Ltd.


Other Rent




Other Costs


It is not possible to provide a detailed breakdown of expenditure on rent in each financial year, but we currently plan to spend some £2 billion on the rental of GB service accommodation over the next 10 years.

Details of the amount spent on the maintenance and emergency repair of void properties over the last five years are not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

The MOD agrees disposal targets with HM Treasury as part of the periodic Spending Reviews and these form part of the Defence budget. Where disposal targets have been exceeded, HM Treasury has allowed the Department to invest any surplus in key priorities, including the provision of new and improved accommodation. As part of the 2007 comprehensive spending review, the proceeds from the disposal of Chelsea barracks were specifically ring-fenced for investment in new and improved accommodation for service personnel.