Funding for empty homes work in Scotland to double after ‘major successes’

A previously empty home in North Lanarkshire
A previously empty home in North Lanarkshire

Housing minister Kevin Stewart will today reaffirm the Scottish Government’s commitment to double the money available for work that helps bring long-term, privately-owned empty homes back into use.

Set to be confirmed at today’s Scottish Empty Homes Conference in Glasgow, the increased funding is in recognition of the highly successful empty homes work being carried out across Scotland, spearheaded by the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership (SEHP), which is funded by the Scottish Government and hosted by Shelter Scotland.

Working with a network of 21 empty homes officers, the SEHP has built up in Scottish local authorities, has so far helped bring 2,840 homes back into use with an estimated market value of £425 million. There are around 34,000 more empty homes in Scotland which are worth £5 billion at today’s average house price.

There are now empty homes officers working with 19 of Scotland’s local authorities. The SEHP says the majority of empty homes brought back into use have been achieved by officers working with owners and encourages more local authorities to employ empty homes officers.

The SEHP annual conference at The Lighthouse brings together empty homes officers and other housing professionals to share success stories and tackle the latest challenges.

This year, the conference will hear how bringing empty homes back into use is also better for the environment as building a new home creates more than three times the level of greenhouse gas emissions (50t) than renovating an empty property (15t). According to the SEHP, around 100,000t of greenhouse gas emissions have been saved due to empty homes work in Scotland.

The SEHP has called on owners to make the most of their assets which also have the potential to play a role in housing people badly in need of affordable homes. It also wants more local councils to recognise the value to the economy of tackling empty homes.

Shaheena Din, Scottish Empty Homes Partnership national manager, said: “Doubling the funding for empty homes work in Scotland is fantastic news and high recognition of the work of empty homes officers and their success at bringing empty homes back into use.

“It simply doesn’t make sense for people to leave a property sitting empty when it could be bringing in money for them and providing a home for someone who needs one. There is a lot of help available to make it possible for people to overcome obstacles that stand in the way of moving back into a property, letting it out or selling it.”

Shaheena Din added: “The fact that renovating empty homes as opposed to building new homes is better for the environment – saving up to 35 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per home – is another compelling reason to bring empty homes back into use. We’d like to see more councils employing dedicated empty homes officers who can support owners to bring their properties back into use.”

Housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “We are determined to increase and accelerate housing supply across Scotland to reach our ambitious target of delivering 50,000 homes for Scotland during the lifetime of this Parliament - 67% higher than the previous 30,000 target.

“The SEHP, hosted by Shelter Scotland, has been instrumental in bringing 2,840 empty homes back into use since 2010.

“This summer I was delighted to see 200 homes brought back into use by the Glasgow Shared Services Empty Homes Project, resulting in one million pounds in VAT savings and boosting the delivery of much needed affordable housing.

“Everyone in Scotland should have a safe and warm place to call home which is why the Scottish Government has doubled the funding for the SEHP to more than £400,000.”

The conference will also include the Howdens Scottish Empty Homes Awards which recognises those individuals and groups that have had significant achievements.

The SEHP runs a free national helpline for members of the public to report empty homes and for owners to seek help in renovating their properties.

Members of the public and owners of empty homes can contact 0344 515 1941 or for advice.

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