Call for Scotland's 47,000 empty homes to be brought back into use

Homes which have been unoccupied for six months or more should be brought back into use as a cost-effective way to provide much-needed accommodation across Scotland, according to a national housing action group.

The latest official figures show the number of homes classified as long-term empty has risen by 16 per cent in the past year to a new total of 47,333

The latest national figures show there has been a significant increase in the number of homes classified as long-term empty, rising by 6,370 in the past year.

The total now stands at 47,333 – up 16 per cent from 40,963 in September 2019.

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The coronavirus pandemic has been blamed for part of the increase, with restrictions hampering efforts to let and renovate vacant properties.

The Scottish Empty Homes Partnership (SEHP) is calling on local authorities to make use of these properties as part of Covid-19 recovery strategies, amid fears that the pandemic has also jeopardised building of new affordable housing.

SEHP says renovating existing buildings is a cheaper and more efficient way of providing urgently needed accommodation than relying on new-builds, with the average cost of returning an empty home to a habitable state at least ten times lower than the price tag for a new one.

The organisation is also warning that the worst effects of the coronavirus crisis may not yet be known.

Shaheena Din, national project manager for SEHP, said: “We were anticipating some increase in the number of long-term empty homes, but a 16 per cent rise is very significant.

“The figures published today show that lockdown and the pandemic have led to more homes becoming empty and more homes remaining empty.

“More worryingly, the full impact of Covid-19 on the number of long-term empty homes is still emerging, and the figures may continue to rise for some time.”

Only 21 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities currently employ empty homes officers, who work with owners to bring vacant properties back into use and improve areas that have become a focus of antisocial behaviour and neglect.

SEHP says more need to follow suit.

Ms Din added: “We would urge every council who do not currently have a dedicated empty homes service to invest in tackling the problem of homes becoming and remaining long-term empty as a result of the pandemic.”

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