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Dundee City Council urged to use part of £6 million housing crisis fund to revamp empty homes

The Scottish Empty Homes Partnership (SEHP), set up to help Councils bring empty properties back in to use, has urged Dundee City Council to consider the city’s 1209 long term empty homes as part of its strategy to address the local housing crisis. The Council recently announced a £6 million housing expenditure programme to tackle the 7700-person waitlist for housing.

The average cost of bringing a long-term empty home back into use is £9,000, versus a minimum of £125,000 needed for new build properties.

Furthermore, extensive renovation work to revamp an empty house can take just 6 months compared to a minimum of 12-18 months for the completion of new housing developments. With 600 people registered as homeless in Dundee, the speed of making additional housing available is critical.

Shaheena Din, National Project Manager for Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, said: “Bringing empty homes back to life could form a critical part of the solution to Dundee’s housing crisis. Building new homes will be central to Dundee’s housing strategy, but diverting even a portion of the housing fund towards the city’s empty homes would be a cost-effective and fast-acting partial solution.”

The call came as SEHP published a new report showing that while the rate of empty homes in Dundee has fallen and is now in line with the national average, the data masks some significant variations between neighbourhoods. Empty homes in Dundee City are not spread out throughout the city, with two thirds of empty homes concentrated in data zones covering just over a quarter of the city’s housing stock.

Dundee City Council data shows that the number of empty homes in Dundee has fallen 20% in the past four years, from 1503 long-term empty homes in 2016 to 1209 last year. Of the 1209 empty homes recorded in 2019, 551 had been empty for longer than one year.

Ms Din added: “'Dundee City Council has seen significant decreases in the overall number of empty homes in recent years. The focus now must be to improve the areas of Dundee that have clusters of long-term empty homes which could become the focus of antisocial behaviour and neglect.”

“These clusters of empty homes demonstrate the need for Dundee City Council to reinstate an Empty Homes Officer who can take a proactive approach to bringing these homes back into use.”

The Empty Homes Officer position currently exists in 21 other local authorities in Scotland, and these officers work with homeowners who want to find ways to renovate a property to bring it back in to use, sell or rent. A dedicated empty homes service can work proactively with owners of long-term empty properties to bring them back into use and improve areas that have become the focus of antisocial behaviour and neglect.

Renovating empty homes helps sole traders, independent businesses and local retailers working in building and construction who have been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. Where someone is repairing or renovating an empty home, they are likely to hire local builders and contractors who purchase materials from local suppliers.  Scottish Government figures show that every £1 spent on renovating property in Scotland generates £1.60 for the economy.

A full copy of the report can be downloaded here.

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