Shetland Islands Council urged to bring empty homes back in to use
The Scottish Empty Homes Partnership and Salmon Scotland have urged Shetland Islands Council and other local authorities to bring vacant properties back into use to tackle the rural housing crisis.
New analysis shows that almost shows five per cent of homes in Shetland (558) were long-term empty in 2021, with around 400 of those having been empty for longer than a year.
Figures show that 95 per cent of homes brought back in to use across Scotland were in areas with a dedicated empty homes service.
Salmon Scotland has been calling for greater investment in rural housing through an overhaul of the farm licence fee system which would see around £10 million-a-year ringfenced for coastal areas where farms operate.
Scottish salmon adds £137 million a year to Shetland’s economy, directly employing 470 people and supporting 370 suppliers.
Shetland and other rural areas are in the grip of housing crisis with average prices rising more sharply than the national average over many years.
The lack of available, affordable housing is affecting the ability of people to live and work in Highland and island communities, and the turmoil in the mortgage market is expected to exacerbate the problem.
Shetland Islands Council has itself acknowledged that a “lack of suitable housing can be a barrier to key sectors of the economy”.
Shaheena Din, national project manager for the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, said: “The figures show that empty homes are very much a problem in Shetland, with over 550 long-term empty properties that could be brought back in to use, increasing supply and providing a boost for the local economy.”
“We support the campaign by Salmon Scotland to raise the issue of housing in rural areas and hope that action can be taken in Shetland that will help address the concerns of their members.”
Tavish Scott, chief executive of Salmon Scotland, said: “The shortage of available, affordable housing in Shetland and other rural communities is a major issue, exacerbated amid the cost-of-living crisis.”
“People are struggling to find homes, and businesses are experiencing problems recruiting staff or retaining staff because they’re priced out of the local housing market.”
“Councils could explore the options available to them to bring properties back into use.”
“We are passionate about supporting the local economies where our farms operate and making rural communities even more attractive places to live and work.”