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Success for empty homes partnership

Published: 14 July 2015

Success for empty homes partnership

Our Scottish Empty Homes Partnership (SEHP) helped bring 558 empty homes back into use last year - with an estimated market value of around £93 million.

The partnership, which is funded by the Scottish Government, supported local authority empty homes officers to bring the 558 empty homes back into use in the last 12 months - double the figure of 278 from the previous year.

With the average cost of bringing an empty property back into use standing at £15,500 and the average cost of a new build home in Scotland being £100,000, empty homes work makes good financial sense both for the owners and local authorities.

Bringing empty homes back into use is helping to regenerate local communities and make neighbourhoods safer while adding to Scotland's housing stock and generating council tax revenues for local authorities.

The news comes following the publication of the partnership's 2014-15 annual report.

Since its launch in 2010, the partnership has helped to restore almost 1,000 empty properties across Scotland into homes again, either for sale, rent (some at affordable rates) or owner occupation.

Graeme Brown, Director of Shelter Scotland, said:

"Bringing Scotland's empty homes back into use represents great value for money but it also provides homes to families and individuals who would otherwise struggle to afford a home of their own, or would be forced into expensive private rents.

"Not only has the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership helped 558 families and individuals realise their dream of a home, empty homes work across Scotland has assisted the owners of these properties to make the most of their assets, while regenerating local communities and neighbourhoods."

Scottish Government Communities Minister, Marco Biagi MSP, said:

"We want communities across Scotland to thrive and meet the needs of residents, businesses and visitors. Bringing empty homes back into use is an important part of this vision and it's vital to make the best possible use of these properties.

"Our support for the Partnership, our work to encourage empty homes back into use and our recent announcement of a new £4 million Town Centre Empty Homes Fund shows the Scottish Government's continued commitment to making best use of our housing stock.

"I'm delighted to see the Empty Homes Partnership is helping to achieve this across Scotland, creating stronger communities."

The Scottish Empty Homes Partnership Annual Report makes a number of recommendations for continuing the success of empty homes work in Scotland including:

  • Mainstream funding for local Empty Homes Officer in all of Scotland's Local Authorities, preferably on permanent contracts.
  • A specific fund to support community groups and Social Enterprises to take forward empty homes projects, learning from the success of the UK Government's Empty Homes Community Grants Programme.
  • Local Taxation Reform to retain a financial incentive for empty home owners to bring their properties back into use.
  • Introduction of the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership's proposed Housing Re-use Power for Scottish councils to be empowered to bring the worst case empty homes back into use for sale or for rent in a timely manner and with full cost recovery to the council.
  • Inclusion of the Land Reform Review Group's proposal for a Compulsory Sale Order power to be included in the Land Reform Bill, with a definition of the scope of the power to cover not just vacant and derelict land but also long term empty homes and buildings.

The Scottish Empty Homes Partnership recently launched a free national helpline for members of the public to report empty homes and for owners to seek help in renovating their properties. Advice is also available about local financial incentives – available in over 20 local authority areas - to bring empty homes back into use.

To date 22 councils have set themselves targets from bringing private empty homes back into use.

The scheme was also instrumental in bringing in additional tax powers for local authorities to charge empty home owners up to 100% extra council tax. Scottish Government estimates predict revenue of £8.5m across Scotland from use of these powers in 2014-15. According to the Scottish Government, 14 councils are using the new tax powers, with nine of them having applied a 100% increase on long term empty homes.

Graeme Brown added:

"Whatever the reason for an empty home – whether it's because the owner has sentimental attachment to it or they simply don't have the finances to carry out repair work - help is available. Bringing empty homes back into use has many benefits and whilst this alone won't solve Scotland's housing crisis, it can be part of the solution."

Read more about the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership.

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