New life breathed into empty homes

ALMOST 1,200 homes in Scotland that were last year once empty have been brought back into active use.

According to the latest annual report of the Empty Homes Partnership – funded by the Scottish Government and hosted by the housing charity, Shelter Scotland – 1,152 empty properties were back into use last year. The figures show that almost 70 per cent of these properties had been empty for two years or longer.

Says a media release, here, announcing the report’s findings: “The number of properties brought back into use was 35 per cent higher than in 2020/21 [during the COVID-19 pandemic] when renovation work was put on hold, rental properties stood vacant, people put off house moves and private sector landlords held back on further investment in the property market. This suggests that many of the homes that became or remained long-term empty due to the pandemic have now been returned to use.

“However, the figures are still 18 per cent lower than they were in the year prior to the pandemic, as the long-term impacts of COVID, coupled with a rise in the cost of materials, shortages in supplies and the lack of availability of local tradespeople, continue to impact the number of homes that can be brought back to use.”

The release adds: “[The SEHP] was established in 2010 to help tackle the housing crisis by encouraging organisations and individuals to bring private sector long-term empty homes back into use where possible as social and affordable homes to help reduce housing need.

“Figures published by the Scottish Government in December showed that the number of homes empty for six months or longer had fallen by 7.5 per cent from 47,333 in 2020 to 43,766. However, this was still 6.5 per cent higher than the 40,963 long-term empty homes in 2019.

“Twenty-four Scottish councils report having an empty homes service. Since last year, there have been two new empty homes officers appointed and a further two councils restarting an empty homes service by appointing a new officer. However, several local authorities have advised that, since the pandemic, empty homes work has been de-prioritised, or in one council, completely stopped.”

The release concludes: “The report highlights limitations faced by councils when owners of empty homes are unwilling to return their home to use or where owners cannot be traced. As well as encouraging councils to use the Compulsory Purchase Order powers which already exist, the report also repeats calls by empty homes officers and local authorities across the country for further powers, to be introduced to prevent homes from being left to deteriorate indefinitely at a time when Scotland desperately needs more homes.”

Picture credit: Scottish Empty Homes Partnership