Alternative approach could be ground-breaking model for empty homes - Shaheena Din

Across the country, tens of thousands of families are on housing waiting lists. At the same time, there are more than 47,000 long-term empty homes in Scotland.

Shaheena Din, National Project Manager, Scottish Empty Homes Partnership

The Scottish Empty Homes Partnership (SEHP) has long held the view that bringing just some of these homes back into use as housing could play a significant role in meeting the demand for new homes across the country.

That’s why we’re delighted to have joined forces with Homes for Good (HfG) to deliver a ground-breaking partnership that will aim to bring empty private sector properties back into use across Glasgow, Renfrewshire, East and North Ayrshire.

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HfG offers an alternative approach to standard letting agencies, providing quality homes within the private rented sector for people on low incomes and those who fall on the spectrum between homelessness, social, and affordable housing. Since 2014, they have raised more than £12 million in investment to create their own portfolio of high-quality homes and they now manage over 500 properties. Their commitment to creating secure homes for tenants has earned them a reputation as a unique letting agency and property management company and seen them awarded National Lottery Community funding to share best practice across the UK.

This made them the ideal partners for an ambitious scheme that will not only address the issue of long-term empty homes but also contribute towards efforts to meet the urgent need to increase the supply of affordable housing.

Through the partnership, HfG will invest in up to 30 privately-owned empty properties in the west of Scotland over the next two years. Potentially properties will initially be identified through liaising with empty homes officers in councils, referrals from the Scottish Empty Homes Advice Service, community reports and local knowledge. The HfG Empty Homes Manager will then assess how far each property fits against the criteria we will be establishing for the scheme, including analysing the costs and scope of works required to bring the property back to use, the needs of the owner and whether it fits with the HfG rental model.

HfG will look to purchase some properties outright and will also support homeowners to bring properties back to the open rental market through an innovative pilot loan scheme that will mean HfG take on the property management role for the owner. In most cases, HfG will refurbish the property and offer it to rent directly to people on a low income or at risk of homelessness.

None of this takes away from the urgent need for new social housing stock to be built, but every empty home that is brought back into use helps to reduce the problems that empty homes can cause to neighbourhoods and communities as well as providing a home for people who may have been struggling to access housing elsewhere.

Our research shows that for many owners, barriers to making properties homes again may be insufficient funding to make a property suitable for sale or rent. For these owners, a scheme where properties are bought by an organisation and refurbished, can be the difference between bringing the property back into use, or it remaining empty and causing a detrimental impact to the local community.

Empty homes are an asset on our doorstep, and this project will use these assets to provide more housing for people who need it. I hope it will become a role model for others to follow.

Shaheena Din, National Project Manager, Scottish Empty Homes Partnership

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