Edinburgh appoints empty homes officer
The City of Edinburgh Council has boosted its ability to tackle the waste of long-term vacant, privately-owned homes with the appointment of a dedicated empty homes officer.
The capital experiences the highest rents in Scotland and house prices are continuing to rise, placing pressure on housing supply and demand.
Supported by the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, which is funded by the Scottish Government and run by Shelter Scotland, the post-holder will focus on advising homeowners about their options, including selling their property or becoming a private landlord, making more homes available to buyers and renters. They will also use council tax data to make sure additional levies on homes left empty for more than 12 months are applied appropriately, creating a financial incentive for homeowners to take action.
The news comes after the Scottish Government backed Edinburgh’s call for a new short term lets licencing regime earlier this month, with confirmation of greater powers for all local authorities in Scotland come Spring 2021.
Councillor Kate Campbell, Edinburgh’s housing, homelessness and fair work convener, said: “We face incredible pressure on housing supply in Edinburgh which is one of the key factors causing high rents. That’s why we have committed to building 20,000 affordable homes by 2027, why we’ve worked so hard to bring about regulation of short term lets and why we are continuing to work on building the case for a rent pressure zone.
“While less than 1% of homes in Edinburgh are empty for more than a year, we still have close to 100 cases where we know vacant properties could be providing safe, warm and much-needed homes. Returning these homes to their proper use will be the priority of our empty homes officer and will be another important tool for increasing the number of homes available for residents to live in.”
Housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “Empty homes and derelict buildings can be a blight on communities which is why we invest £400,000 each year to support the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership. We are already seeing real results, with an increase of supply of good quality homes at a rate of 100 per month and over 5,000 in total.
“The key to this success is the network of dedicated empty homes officers and that’s why I am pleased that the council has now appointed someone to provide this vital service to help provide more homes for the people of Edinburgh. I strongly encourage local authorities across the country to follow Edinburgh’s lead in recognising the benefits of this approach and bring them to the communities they serve.”
Shaheena Din, national manager for the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, added: “We’re delighted to be working with the council to kick start an empty homes service in Edinburgh. The city has one of the most pressured housing markets in Scotland and it makes no sense for properties to be sitting empty, potentially causing problems for neighbours, when they could be homes for people.
“Last year 1,128 homes were brought back into use following intervention by a local council in Scotland, more than 90% of them in areas with a dedicated empty homes officer. We look forward to Edinburgh seeing fantastic results from the new service.”