How many homes in Scotland lie empty?

WHILE there are growing demands for more new houses to be built in Scotland, campaigners are working to bring empty properties back into use.

An abandoned house in West Lothian that was subsequently restored by the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership
An abandoned house in West Lothian that was subsequently restored by the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership

There are more than 27,000 homes lying empty north of the border. Most remain unoccupied for a short time, but many are effectively abandoned.

As long as they are in private ownership, long-term neglected homes can cause issues for neighbours and local authorities alike.

Empty properties can become magnets for vandalism and anti-social behaviour. In extreme cases, abandoned homes can drag down the value of an entire street.

It remains the owner’s responsibilty to maintain a building and there is little anyone else can do to intervene.

This is a source of frustration for charities and the Government at a time when there is an increasing demand for affordable housing.

The Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, funded by the Scottish Government and run by housing charity Shelter Scotland, works with owners to ensure properties are not left to rot.

A national helpline has been launched to encourage members of the public to report homes that may have been abandoned, as well as offering practical advice to owners.

It makes little financial sense to leave a property sitting empty. It is estimated an empty home can cost around £8000 per year when council tax payments, lost potential rental income, insurance, and general maintenance are considered.

“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,” said Kirsten Hubert, project co-ordinator.

“Bringing empty homes back into use has many benefits and while this alone won’t solve Scotland’s housing crisis, it can be part of the solution.

“We encourage people to report empty homes to the national empty homes helpline or to contact us if they’re the owner of an empty property. The helpline is manned by expert staff who will discuss all the options available to help transform empty houses back into homes again.”

Since its launch in 2010, the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership has helped to bring over 900 homes back into use across Scotland and has worked to establish dedicated empty homes officers within half of Scotland’s 32 local authorities.

The national empty homes helpline number is 0344 515 1941.