Councils urged to address 40,000 empty homes as part of COVID-19 recovery

The Scottish Empty Homes Partnership (SEHP) has called on local authorities to use Scotland’s 40,000 long-term empty homes as part of COVID-19 recovery plans, ahead of an expected increase in numbers of properties empty for six months or more.

Councils urged to address 40,000 empty homes as part of COVID-19 recovery

Shaheena Din

SEHP is expecting official statistics published by the Scottish Government tomorrow to show a rise in the number of homes becoming long-term empty and a reduction in the number of long-term empty homes being returned to use as a result of the pandemic.

It is also concerned the pandemic has placed Scotland’s ability to deliver 50,000 new affordable homes at risk and believe empty homes can provide a cost-effective way of providing much needed affordable homes after the pandemic. The average costs of returning an empty home to a habitable state is between £6,000 and £12,000. This is at least ten times lower than the average cost of building a new home.

SEHP believes that it is vital that local authorities across Scotland employ dedicated empty homes officers to work with homeowners who want to renovate a property to bring it back in to use.

Currently employed by 21 local authorities in Scotland, these officers work proactively with owners of long-term empty properties to bring them back into use and improve areas that have become the focus of antisocial behaviour and neglect. A number of others have delayed hiring due to the pandemic

Shaheena Din, national project manager for SEHP, said: “The full impact of COVID-19 on the number long-term empty homes will not be known for some time, and it may well be that figures continue to increase. We would therefore urge those councils to prioritise the hiring of these officers so that they can tackle the problem of long-term empty homes to increase housing supply, benefit the local economy and improve local neighbourhoods.

“Bringing empty homes back into use can provide a vital income stream to businesses and the local economy. Scottish Government figures show that every £1 spent on renovating property in Scotland generates £1.60 for the economy. This is because someone repairing or renovating an empty home are likely to be hiring local builders and purchasing materials from local suppliers. This money is then further invested in the local economy.”

SEHP is planning to address these and other issues at the forthcoming 10th Scottish Empty Homes Conference in February 2021, for which tickets have just gone on sale. The conference will be held online for the first time and will focus on the theme of Providing Homes, Helping Recovery.

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