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The Auction House Scotland 13th Scottish Empty Homes Conference Winners

We would like to congratulate all of our awards finalists for their wonderful entries. A special congratulations to each of our award winners -

Best use of empty homes to meet social/affordable housing need

Grampian Housing Assosiation

Grampian Housing Association

This property was a Ballater C listed school building dating back to 1877, in need of extensive repairs. Ballater is an area with a severe lack of properties to rent, a high number of second homes, and a long waiting list for council housing. Grampian Housing Association carried out a sustainable redevelopment and adopted a partnership approach, teaming up with Aberdeenshire Council and Scottish Government to fund the repairs. As a result of this project, 24 social rented homes were delivered to help address local housing need. 12 houses were developed from the historical buildings, alongside 11 new build flats and one bungalow. This project implemented a local letting plan to make sure it served people in the local community and has had a positive impact on the economy and community as a whole.

Special recognition award

Dawn Meston

Dawn Meston

In just 9 months, Dawn has produced many achievements as empty homes officer for Highland Council. This role had previously been empty for a long time and Dawn was able to not only review every case she inherited, but also double her active case load. Dawn also broadened the scope of empty homes work to cover a larger geographical expanse, offering support to both urban and rural owners for the first time in recent Highland history. Dawn has worked tirelessly to advocate for empty homes work within the council. She also prioritised cases where council tax arrears could be recovered, making a positive impact on the council’s budget. Dawn helped make hundreds of empty home owners aware of discounts and nearly tripled her original target for number of homes brought back to use.

Best renovation by the public

Robert Mark Tai Sen Choy

Robert Tai

After first discovering this historical Department of Fisheries cottage in 2004 on the Isle of Lewis, Robert purchased this property in 2021. This isolated croft had been empty for over 15 years, was in a ruinous state, and was completely uninhabitable. At 63, Robert carried out the majority of the extensive renovations by himself, which required stripping the property back to the stone walls, and even collected most of his materials with his van around town. Robert also funded the project himself as he was twice denied a home improvement grant. In additional to financial challenges, Robert faced obstacles such as a storm that blew off the new porch roof he had installed and flooded the property. It took 8 months, help from his local MP, and media attention to get his supplier to turn the power back on. Robert persevered and in 2022 completed his first ever property renovation. This project serves as an inspiring example of what can be achieved with empty homes!

Best renovation by the housing sector

Easy Hire Solutions LTD - Chalmers Street

Easy Hire Solutions LTD - Chalmers Street

Easy Hire purchased this Dunfermline property at auction and only learned after the sale that it was boarded up and in need of extensive repairs. This property had been empty since 2010, was the target of vandalism, and was in a general state of disrepair. Located very close to the town centre, this property served as an eyesore. Easy Hire carried out the renovation with a strong focus on restoring as much of the original materials as possible to ensure an ecofriendly retrofit. They faced challenges such as excessive debris, unsafe wiring, and even pigeons who had taken up residence. Following the extensive repairs, two flats have been brought back to use and they are currently working on developing the ground floor into a commercial space. This renovation serves as an important step toward achieving community regeneration in this area and has had a big impact on the townscape.

Best environmentally friendly retrofit

Barnes House - Scottish Borders Council

Barnes House - Scottish Borders Council

This property had been empty for at least 25-30 years and was in a ruinous state. It was purchased by a local couple and with the EHO’s support they were able to access grant funding, VAT reductions, and council tax discretion to help fund the renovation. They faced the additional challenge of making an older period property energy efficient. They installed renewable technology such as solar panels, associated battery storage units, and an air source pump. This couple, with the help of Rachel Whale, the EHO for Scottish Borders, were able to save this home and achieve an inspiring EPC A rating for both energy efficiency and environmental impact. This project has brought a home back to use in the community and contributed to Scottish Borders Council’s goal for net-zero emissions by 2045.