Up to 7,000 home lie unused in Edinburgh, research finds
The City of Edinburgh Council has pledged to reduce the number of empty council homes after a new study revealed that almost 7,000 homes in the capital are lying unused.
Figures compiled by Admiral Home Insurance found that more than 1,000 homes have been empty for more than ten years. According to the research, the 6,904 empty properties are collectively worth £1.8 billion.
The study found that, across the whole of Scotland 30,000 properties, with a combined value of almost £7bn, have been vacant for at least six months.
This month it emerged that 23,000 tenants are on waiting lists in Edinburgh, with 200 bids for each socially rented home.
Disputes over estates, or relatives who do not know that they have inherited a property, are the main reasons behind the empty dwellings.
Lisa Borthwick, the national manager for the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, said: “I think the examples of why homes become empty are very similar across Scotland.
“The most common reason is that when an owner passes away there might be a dispute over the estate or it might be that somebody who has inherited the property isn’t aware of it at all.
“What we have in Edinburgh is that unique situation where property prices are very high so in some situations that can encourage people to hold on to a property, particularly if they’re waiting to see what the right time is to sell in terms of the market.”
Ms Borthwick added: “That is of course a perverse situation that we don’t want to encourage. We really need to be ensuring that we’re bringing long-term empty homes back into use so that we are supporting housing for people who need it within the city.”
NUS Scotland said 12% of students have experienced homelessness during their studies and urged the council to take bold action to resolve the issue.
Recent data from the student-led social enterprise SLURP found that 16% of students at the University of Edinburgh have not found accommodation by the start of academic term.
NUS Scotland president Ellie Gomersall said: “The student housing system is broken, and it is failing students across Scotland. Homes across the country are too often being seen and used as assets for investors, rather than homes for people to live in.
“It’s simply unacceptable that while 16% of students at the University of Edinburgh were unable to find a place to live, thousands of homes are empty across the city.
“Those who have found accommodation bear the brunt of unaffordable rents and poor quality.
“Data from SOS-UK’s ‘Homes Fit For Study’ report shows that 54% of students live with damp or mould in their current accommodation, while NUS Scotland’s data shows 12% of students across Scotland have experienced homelessness.
“In the upcoming Housing Bill, the Scottish Government must take real action to address the scale of the challenge.
“Purpose-built student accommodation must be included in the proposed rent controls, with parity with the private rented sector – and we’re clear that rent controls should not merely freeze rents, but bring them back down to affordable levels.
“Everyone has the right to safe, affordable housing. Every empty home while another person is homeless is a moral failure, and politicians in charge must work with partners to urgently fix this crisis.”
Jane Meagher, the Edinburgh housing convener, urged homeowners who are struggling to sell a vacant property to consider their options to help ease some of the housing pressures.
“In Edinburgh, we’ve got around 5,000 households in temporary accommodation,” she said. “It’s not a far stretch of the imagination to think that if we could free up more homes for occupation in the city, then that would have not only the effect of being able to accommodate more people, but perhaps alleviating some of the upward trends in rent.
“For example, because supply and demand dictate that where there are fewer homes then rents and prices go up, and we all who live in Edinburgh know about that.”
Cllr Meagher added: “We have ambitious house-building plans but we face rising construction costs as a result of inflation and difficulties securing land.
“Tackling empty homes is also a major priority for us and at least 117 homes have been brought back into use in the last month alone.”