More than 700 long-term empty homes brought back into use

The Scottish Empty Homes Partnership (SEHP) is celebrating strong progress over the last 12 months as it helped bring more than 700 homes lying empty for more than six months back into use.

Last year the partnership supported local authorities and partners to bring 742 long-term private empty homes back into use across Scotland – more than two every day.

Since 2011, the SEHP has worked to help councils bring 3,216 private, long-term empty homes back into use with an average total market value of around half a billion pounds. It is estimated, however, that there are still 37,000 long-term privately-owned empty homes in Scotland.

Releasing the figures in its annual report, the SEHP said progress was strong and that 20 councils had an active empty homes officer. It also noted that 26 councils were now applying the Vacant Dwelling Council Tax Levy - doubling the council tax on empty homes. The SEHP also said it received a constant flow of enquiries about the service to its Empty Homes Advice Service from private empty home owners and members of the public.

The SEHP is hosted by Shelter Scotland and funded by the Scottish Government, which recently doubled the SEHP funding to support this vital area of work. A key aim of the SEHP’s work is to persuade all local authorities in Scotland to employ dedicated empty homes officers and to prioritise local empty homes work.

The SEHP says having a dedicated local authority empty homes officer supporting private owners to bring properties back into use has been instrumental in almost all of the successful cases it has seen. The SEHP has various grant-funding packages to help local authorities take that first step toward employing a dedicated empty homes officer.

Another two councils - Western Isles and Aberdeen City - have recently taken up partial funding packages from the SEHP which will allow them to test the benefits of having an empty homes officer in their region. This will take the total to 22 councils with active empty homes officers.

Shaheena Din, national project manager of the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, said: “Our latest annual report shows that Scotland continues to make good progress on reducing the number of privately-owned empty homes across Scotland, but there is a long way to go. Our good progress so far is largely down to the buy-in from the majority of local authorities and continued support from the Scottish Government.

“It’s fantastic to know that last year we helped local authorities across Scotland to bring an average of two empty homes per day back into use and that 3,216 empty properties have now been brought back into use over the lifetime of the partnership so far.

“However, there is still plenty of room to make a bigger impact. Our aim is to target as many of the remaining 37,000 long-term privately owned empty homes as possible by getting the 10 councils who don’t currently have an empty homes officer to invest in empty homes work in their area. We shall be contacting them to make the case that bringing empty homes back into use is a positive move for the community and the council – bringing clear and tangible social and economic benefits.”

Minister for local government, housing and planning, Kevin Stewart MSP, said: “Making sure everyone has access to a safe, warm place to call home is a priority for the Scottish Government. That’s not just about building new homes, but making better use of existing stock. Long-term empty homes can be a blight on communities and are a wasted resource at a time when we need more homes – bringing them back into use is a cost-effective way to increase supply and support community regeneration.

“The work of Empty Homes Officers across Scotland has proven invaluable, and local authorities across the country are embracing its work. I hope to see every area capitalising on those opportunities, to realise our ambitions of an empty homes service in each local authority and to bring back as many long-term empty homes as we can.”

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