Scottish Empty Homes Partnership calls for action to ensure empty homes are not legacy of COVID
Crumbling bricks, broken windows and overgrown gardens of empty homes across Scotland could be a visual legacy of the economic crisis caused by the COVID pandemic if action is not taken to bring more properties back in to use, according to the leader of a project working with local authorities across the country.
Shaheena Din, national project manager for the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership (SEHP), which is funded by the Scottish Government and hosted by Shelter Scotland, will tell the organisations 10th annual conference that local authorities must include working to bring Scotland’s almost 50,000 empty homes back into use as part of COVID-19 recovery plans or risk them becoming the symbol of economic crisis.
According to Scottish Government figures published in December, 47,333 properties in Scotland had been empty for six months or more, up 16% (6370) from the previous year. More worryingly, the full impact of Covid-19 on the number of long-term empty homes is still emerging, and the figures may continue to rise for some time.
SEHP 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 cost of returning an empty home to a habitable state is between £6,000 and £12,000, ten times less than the average cost of building a new home.
Furthermore, 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.
Shaheena Din said: “Images of empty homes came to symbolise economic decline and the loss of vibrant communities across Scotland in the 1980s and recent figures show the Covid crisis is already causing more empty homes in Scotland.
“We must act now to ensure empty homes do not become a legacy of the pandemic. By investing in dedicated empty home services, councils can help make homes available for those who need them, improve local communities and deliver a much-needed boost to local economies.
“No area is immune so we need the 11 councils without a dedicated service to create one urgently, and for all local authorities to prioritise support for bringing empty homes back in to use as part of their recovery and rebuilding plans.”