A review into it’s £500m estate, accelerated due to the Covid-19 pandemic, has led Bath and North East Somerset Council to consider new avenues.
Speaking with local press, Councillor Richard Samuel said the 1,200 properties that the council held in its portfolio where the “jewel in the authority’s crown”.
However, with the pandemic having knocked some £6.6m off the council’s rental income and caused significant changes to working arrangements and the use of space, there has been need to accelerate the review – which was already underway before the virus – and consider alternative outlets.
Cllr Samuel reportedly told a cabinet meeting: “The council’s property holdings have been faithful servants for many years.
“The holdings have produced income to the council that has used to support its wide of range of services and the improvement of our area. It is a jewel in the council’s crown that must be looked after and nurtured.
“But the time has come to consider a change of direction.”
B&NES Council has stated it intends to maintain ownership of its £295m commercial estate, but would adapt its use – including potentially turning empty shops into homes. The proportion of empty properties in the council’s portfolio has reportedly doubled to as high as 7.6% of all properties it owns.
The council’s £200m operational estate is also being re-evaluated.
Cllr Samuel, cabinet member for resources, explained to the meeting that the council had to “wean itself off” its reliance on property income, with the estate needing to balance the interests of income maximisation, tenants and the community.
He added: “For the avoidance of doubt, we aren’t doing a fire sale, we aren’t outsourcing this property portfolio, we aren’t selling the family silver.
“What we want to do is make the whole complex estate work better for the council and for the community. We aren’t flogging things off.”
There was also anticipated to be a renewed focus on tackling the climate emergency, with the local authority setting an example for other landlords.