More than 100 empty homes a month brought back into use in Scotland

New data from the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership (SEHP) has revealed that more than 100 formerly empty homes are being brought back into use every month thanks to specialist staff in Scottish local councils.

The data has also revealed that over the last 18 months, 1,821 privately-owned homes which had been unoccupied for six months or more were brought back into use.

Speaking ahead of the SEHP’s annual conference on 20th November, national manager, Shaheena Din, said: “Scotland is turning a corner on empty homes. We had our best ever year last year and in the past six months we’ve seen that improvement accelerate to a point where we’re seeing 101 vacant properties become homes once again each month.

“This is a fantastic achievement and down to councils committing to the issue and supporting staff to deliver these results. In total, we’ve now seen 5,037 homes brought back into use since the launch of the partnership in 2010.

“Almost all of these success stories are down to the intervention of Empty Homes Officers working in councils and able to offer owners and others advice and support to resolve problems that have led to properties becoming stuck empty.”

According to council tax figures published by the Scottish Government, there are 39,300 long-term empty privately owned homes across the country.

The Scottish Empty Homes Partnership which is funded by the Scottish Government and run by housing charity Shelter Scotland guides and supports councils. One of its goals is to see an empty homes officer working in every council area in Scotland. In some areas, it part-funds new posts for empty homes officers to kick start local services.

Kevin Stewart, housing minister, added: “The work of the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership is helping end the blight of empty houses in communities across Scotland at a time when we need more homes.

“We have supported the work of the Partnership since 2010, and I’m pleased to see their record-breaking success increase year on year, now with over 5,000 privately owned homes brought back into use.

“We want to see this work continue with dedicated Empty Homes Officers in every local authority in Scotland, and I encourage every council to make that happen and bring these benefits to their communities.”

Highlights from a national survey of local authorities commissioned by the SEHP are due to be released on the day of its conference looking into the reasons why properties become empty and why some stay empty for long periods of time.

This year’s conference will be addressed by Matt Allwright, presenter of BBC 1’s the Empty Housing Scandal which aired earlier this year.

Shaheena Din added: “We’re delighted to bring Matt to this year’s conference to talk about his unique experience of travelling across Britain looking at the problem of empty homes and the different tactics being used to bring them back into use in different areas.

“We already know that having a dedicated empty homes officer in a council makes the difference and after almost 10 years of the SEHP we’re also building up a better understanding of why homes become empty, why they stay empty and what is needed to tackle the problem. These are the subjects we’ll be highlighting in the report on our latest survey. It’s vital for Scotland’s housing supply, and the health of communities, that we tackle this problem.”

Alongside the conference, the SEHP is running the Howdens Scottish Empty Homes Champions of the Year Awards which seeks to recognise those working to bring empty property back to life. Among those in the running are community-led projects in remote island communities, a commercial company based in Glasgow and council staff working in local authorities from Ayrshire to the Western Isles.

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