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Capital developers should look to empty homes to increase housing in city

Converted empty property, now specialist housing in Niddrie Street, Edinburgh.

The Scottish Empty Homes Partnership (SEHP) wants private developers to include plans to bring empty homes back to use in their responses to the Prior Information Notice (PIN) issued by City of Edinburgh Council calling for investors, landowners and developers to consider ways to accelerate the council’s ambition to deliver 20,000 affordable homes by 2027.

The PIN asks private developers to purchase development sites and completed homes, as well as work on leasehold proposals but SEHP, which was set up to help Councils bring empty properties back in to use, believes empty homes renovation offers an opportunity to deliver some of the affordable homes the city needs in a shorter timeframe.

Statistics published by the Scottish Government in December 2021 showed that there were more than 2,183 homes in Edinburgh that had been empty for more than a year. SEHP noted that empty homes can become magnets for a wide range of anti-social behaviour that can also have a detrimental effect on the quality of neighbouring homes and the lives of the people that live in them, with many neighbours who contact SEHP telling them of stress related illnesses that are directly linked to the empty home.

Bringing properties back to use can remove these problems and also provide specialist housing for other services in the city. SEHP cite a block of 6 flats in Niddrie Road in Edinburgh which was brought back to use by LAR Housing Trust as safe accommodation for adults with learning disabilities as an example of the positive contribution empty homes can make when they are taken on and returned to use.

City of Edinburgh Council has an Empty Homes Officer, previously part funded by SEHP, who can offer assistance and practical advice to owners of empty properties to encourage them to bring a property back to use. The Officer can also help neighbours by seeking to track down absentee owners and encourage them to renovate their property.

The role of empty homes renovations in contributing to increasing the supply of affordable housing will be a key theme of the 11th Scottish Empty Homes Conference which will take place in Edinburgh in March this year.

Shaheena Din, National Project Manager for the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, said:

“Bringing empty homes back in to use offers an opportunity to make quick progress in delivering more affordable housing in Edinburgh.”

 “In addition to looking at traditional construction or partnerships to meet affordable homes targets, private developers should consider investing in empty homes’ renovation to help the Council meet their challenging housing targets.”

 “Strategic private investment to bring some of the 2,183 homes in Edinburgh that have been empty for more than a year would provide an opportunity to regenerate neighbourhoods and help the council meet other housing needs as we have seen with the work LAR took forward to create specialist homes on Niddrie Road.”

 “In addition to the fantastic work undertaken by Empty Homes Officers with owners and neighbours, I hope that private developers will consider investing in empty homes work as they assist City of Edinburgh Council with meeting their affordable homes targets.”