This year EHOs recorded 1,257 properties brought back into use. This was a 9% increase on the 2021 total of 1,152 and the second highest total recorded since the partnership commenced. It brings the total number of homes brought back to use to 9,014.
Information on how long the home was empty for was available for 96% (1257) of these properties, substantially more than any other year, highlighting the increased amount of information EHOs are now able to draw on in their work.
Over 650 of the properties reported back into use this year had been empty for more than 2 years, this includes 224 homes that had been empty for 5 years or more.
Bringing most, if not all, of these 224 homes back to use is likely to be the culmination of several years work by empty homes officers that may have initially been triggered by contact from a neighbour and have subsequently involved trying to track down owners, encouraging them to take action on their home, explaining options available to them and supporting them through the process to return their home to contribute to housing stock in their area.
Others may have been homes where owners refused to engage, and compulsory purchase orders(CPO) were used to force the home back to use. However, where this is not an appropriate measure, other tools are needed to unlock Scotland’s stickiest homes.
Many other homes that have been empty for this length of time however, may be stuck in limbo, where owners can’t be traced and/or the property is not suitable for compulsory purchase or the local authority are not pursuing this option for empty homes.
Evidence gathered from our annual survey, case studies and best practice meetings have all shown that the longer homes remain empty the harder it becomes to bring them back into use. This may both be due to the deterioration of a property and the increased expenditure that will be required to return it to use. Other factors include the increased difficulty in finding owners or, when owners are found, getting them to take action to bring a home back to use rather than ignoring or avoiding any responsibility they may have to maintain the property and pay taxes in relation to it.
The SEHP welcomes any additional enforcement options, such as compulsory sale orders or compulsory rental orders, that can be used effectively to unlock stuck properties and return them to use both to increase housing stock and to remove the blight of empty homes for neighbours.