Empty Homes Strategy continues to bring homes back to life in Glasgow
Glasgow City Council’s Empty Homes Strategy has brought back hundreds of empty homes back to use in the city over the past few years, helping to increase the housing supply.
Glasgow currently has 2,659 homes listed as being empty for six months or more. Empty homes are not only a wasted resource that could be used to address local housing needs but can also become a blight on the community by becoming eyesores and attracting vandalism.
The economic advantage to bringing an empty home back to productive use is clear: it costs between £6,000 - £25,000 to renovate an empty property compared to an estimated cost of £120,000 to build a new home.
There are a number of reasons for homes becoming empty - mortgage default and repossessions; deceased or untraceable owners; property title issues; and properties which have fallen into a state of disrepair.
Since 2019, 607 homes have been brought back into productive use through the council’s Empty Homes Officers (EHO) working with owners, following the target of 200-250 homes per year. The council works alongside the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, owners and other interested parties to achieve this.
Actions to bring back these homes into use falls under three broad categories: selling the property, renting or on occupation. Those who wish to report empty homes can do so by emailing EmptyHomes@glasgow.gov.uk or phoning 0141 287 0405 / 1373 / 7994 and this will allow the Empty Homes team to offer advice, guidance and support to enable owners to make an informed decision regarding their empty home.
Under the Housing (Scotland) Act 2010, local authorities can now use Council Tax records to identify vacant homes and bring them back into use, and a surcharge of up to 100% of Council Tax can be charged to owners of empty homes which are not being marketed for sale or rent. Glasgow said it is the only Scottish local authority that alerts homeowners prior to this application of the premium charge.
The Empty Homes Strategy aims to:
- Increase the availability of housing stock to meet demand, providing good-quality accommodation for those who need it;
- Offer home-owners information and advice to help bring properties back into use;
- Identify opportunities for suitable housing for particular groups, such as larger families, homeless people, and those with a variety of support needs;
- Tackle environmental and neighbourhood blight; and
- Safeguard the interest of tenement flat owners to facilitate common repairs work.
Where there are instances where an owner cannot be traced or refuses to engage with the EHO, the council will consider the use of compulsory purchase order (CPO) powers. CPO powers are considered when all other options have been exhausted, the use of CPO is to improve the condition of the housing stock and bring empty properties back into use working with registered social landlords to provide assistance through the acquisition strategy. Any homes that have compulsory purchased will be brought back into use for social rent.
Since 2019 committee authorisation has been sought to promote a total of 52 CPOs for properties across Glasgow, with a total of 37 CPOs now been progressed or confirmed. With the remaining 15 properties, 13 have been acquired by the respective housing associations on a voluntary basis and the remaining two properties have either been sold or occupied by family members, negating the need to proceed with the CPO.
The EHO also work closely with the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership (SEHP), which has negotiated discounts for goods and services with a variety of companies for internal renovation works in empty properties. By contacting the EHO advice and guidance on this support can be discussed.
Another service the EHO offer is a matchmaker scheme, aiming to match empty property homeowners who are trying to sell or who are thinking about selling with people who want to buy an empty property. When the EHO identifies a ‘match’ between an empty home for sale and a buyer’s requirements, the empty homeowner and the buyer will receive each other’s details to follow up and hopefully start negotiations.
Councillor Kenny McLean, city convener for neighbourhoods, housing and public realm at Glasgow City Council, said: “Our Empty Homes Strategy not only brings economic and environmental benefits to Glasgow, but also contributes to the regeneration of communities across the city. The officers in the Empty Homes team provide a range of services to homeowners and those looking to bring empty homes back into use in Glasgow.”
Bailie Christy Means, vice-convener of the neighbourhoods, housing and public realm committee, added: “I’m thrilled that Glasgow City Council has now recruited a third Empty Homes Officer since the budget was agreed last year. This will allow us to build on the positive work that has been done in Glasgow to bring more empty homes back into productive use, to provide much-needed housing, to tackle poor property condition and to address the Climate Emergency.
“With demand for housing growing, rents increasing year on year, and housing waiting lists continuing to rise, it’s imperative that we make the most of the homes that already exist. This will benefit our communities and, given the smaller carbon cost of refurbishing an existing home compared to building a new one, it will benefit the environment too.”