PRIVATE empty homes brought back into use in Scotland last year have an estimated market value of around £93 million.
The Scottish Empty Homes Partnership (SEHP) identified and made fit for rent or sale 558 flats and houses in a range of locations from cities such as Edinburgh and Glasgow to rural areas of Orkney, according to its annual report.
This is more than double the 278 private sector properties it brought back into use in 2013-2014.
The Scottish Government estimates there are more than 27,000 long-term private sector empty homes in Scotland. A property is deemed long-term empty when it has been unoccupied for six months or more.
It is estimated it costs £15,000 to bring such properties back into use, compared with £100,000 for a new-build.
The project, run by Shelter Scotland, the housing and homelessness charity, and funded by the Scottish Government, has a helpline number for reporting empty properties.
A local authority officer will then trace the owner and discuss incentives such as the rent deposit guarantee scheme, grants to make the property habitable again or financial help such as the Scottish Government’s empty homes loan fund which provides funding providing the property is made available as affordable housing for a minimum of five years.
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.
“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.”
Marco Biagi MSP, Scottish Government communities minister, 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 £4m 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.”
Since its launch in 2010, the partnership has helped restore almost 1,000 empty properties in Scotland.
Official statistics show there are 150,500 families and individuals in Scotland on council house waiting lists and over 35,000 households made homelessness applications in the last year.