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Volume 474: debated on Tuesday 1 April 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) if he will make available empty Ministry of Defence residential dwellings in Colchester constituency for (a) the short-term and (b) long-term use by (i) Colchester Borough Council and (ii) relevant housing associations; and if he will make a statement; (195985)

(2) what estimate he has made of how much has been received by Annington Estates in (a) 2007-08 and (b) the previous 10 years for which figures are available in payments for rent in respect of vacant residential dwellings for military personnel in Colchester constituency.

Service family accommodation (SFA) is provided to house service personnel and their dependants, and in England and Wales most SFA is owned by Annington Homes Ltd. (AHL). Surplus properties are returned to that company. In Colchester some unoccupied properties have been used to accommodate single service personnel while new single living accommodation (SLA) blocks are being built. However, as new SLA becomes available the SFA properties are returned to AHL. For instance around 100 properties have been identified for return to AHL in Financial Year 2008-09. For these, among other, reasons we have no current plans to make empty SFA available for non-military use.

Out of the 1,094 SFA properties at Colchester some 219 are currently void (not in use for their intended purpose). Void stock includes SFA being held for planned moves of service units, or awaiting planned upgrades, sale or release, modernisation or demolition. The Department is taking a number of steps to reduce the amount of void SFA. Since March 2007, the total number of void SFA worldwide has reduced from 13,336 to 12,240 properties.

Whether SFA is occupied or not, we pay the same rent to AHL, an average of £3,500 per annum per property, It is thus not possible to identify the rent paid to AHL for void properties in this and previous years, as no separate assessment of the cost of void SFA is made.