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Bringing empty homes back to life “a key part” in meeting Scotland’s housing shortage

The Scottish Empty Homes Partnership (SEHP) today published a new guide that shows how bringing some of Scotland’s 43,000+ long term empty homes back to use can help local authorities to address housing shortages across the country.

“Why Empty Homes Matter” was launched at the 11th Annual Scottish Empty Homes Conference in Edinburgh today. The guide was prepared in partnership with CoSLA and the Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers (ALACHO).  It describes the important role empty homes can play in helping deliver the road map for housing set out in the Scottish Government’s “Housing to 2040” strategy published last year.

Drawing on examples of good practice across Scotland, it demonstrates how empty homes work can reduce pressure on emergency accommodation, attract new private sector investment, create stronger and more vibrant communities and drive down carbon emissions.  Examples included in the document include:

  • An Open Market Purchase Scheme in North Lanarkshire which has invested over £12m, to increase the supply of homes, supplementing a new house building programme.
  • A Matchmake programme in Aberdeen that allows the council to facilitate a match between owners of empty homes and people on council housing waiting lists.
  • The redevelopment of an old mill building in Arbroath which been used for 24 homes being made available for social rent in the town centre.
  • A Trust in the Western Isles long term vision to reverse a century of population decline including by providing more affordable good housing and improved community facilities.

Other speakers at the conference included Shona Robison MSP (Cabinet Secretary for Housing) Phil Prentice (Scotland’s Towns Partnership), and Petra Biberbach (Planning Aid Scotland).  The conference also heard from a person who had lived next to an empty home describing the effect the deterioration of the property and anti-social behaviour associated with it had on her health and wellbeing before it was brought back in to use.

Speaking at the conference, Andy Moseley, Senior Policy Officer for SEHP, said:

“Scottish Government has set ambitious targets in its Housing to 2040 strategy.  Although not a solution on its own, empty homes work offers a way to meet those objectives faster, enhancing existing local communities and with far less environmental impact.”

“We have all seen stories about housing shortages of across Scotland.  A sharper focus on bringing empty homes back in to use can be a key part of providing the housing Scotland needs to address these shortages now and in the future.”

Cllr. Kelly Parry, CoSLA Spokesperson for Community Wellbeing said:

“Local authorities play a critical role in bringing empty homes back into use. Why Empty Homes Matter demonstrates exactly why empty homes work is so important for the future of housing in Scotland, particularly in the context of Housing to 2040.”

“We hope this will be a useful resource for councils working with partners across Scotland.”

John Mills, Co-chair of ALACHO said:

“Empty homes work is sometimes misunderstood as being a niche housing issue, but tackling Scotland’s 43,000 empty homes has a much wider impact on neighbourhoods, environment and local economies among other issue areas.

Why Empty Homes Matter puts empty homes work into that broader context and we hope a range of teams within local governments across Scotland will find it a helpful source of information.”

The Why Empty Homes Matter summary report is available to download here.
The full guide can be downloaded here.