This impact report by the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership (SEHP) covers the period 2022-23 and the end of Phase 1 in our plan. The report draws on survey responses received from 25 councils, as well as national statistics from the Scottish Government, National Records of Scotland, and from activity within our Empty Homes Officer (EHO) network throughout the year.
The SEHP is funded by the Scottish Government, and hosted by Shelter Scotland, with the remit to encourage privately owned properties that are lying empty to be used as homes once again. Ideally, these homes would be used for social and affordable use, where possible, and help to address Scotland’s housing emergency. Bringing these homes back into productive use can be a quick and cost-effective way of increasing housing supply.
Over the past 13 years, excellent progress has been made with EHOs reporting over 9,000 homes back into use since inception.
There is a commitment from Scottish Government to deliver 110,000 additional homes by 2032, and local authorities can help to support this aim, as well as to regenerate local areas, by acquiring empty properties.
During the period of this report homes reported back into use are only from local authorities with an empty homes resource. 224 of the properties brought back into use have been empty for over 5 years, demonstrating the importance and value of an EHO, and empty homes work to all local authorities. These homes contribute to local supply but when left empty can cause a negative impact to a local area and community.
EHOs tell us that advice and assistance can unlock many properties, however they repeatedly call for more enforcement tools, in particular Compulsory Sales Orders. We have explored the potential of Compulsory Rental Orders as an additional measure and with demands on councils to provide additional housing, it is now more important than ever to develop this policy.
There has been a focus on strategic partnerships with other groups, as this can increase much needed investment to empty housing stock, which if left to rot, is storing up problems for the future. These partnerships are across an urban and rural split and will identify key lessons learned for future models.
The work being undertaken by the partnership, empty homes officers and other practitioners in Scotland has not gone unnoticed elsewhere. Over the last year we have been asked to give presentations about our work to empty homes conferences in the USA and Ireland. Meanwhile, attendees at our most recent annual conference included two empty homes specialists from Spain who were very interested in the active approach being taken to tackle empty homes in Scotland.
This year’s key highlights
These are incredible achievements and should be celebrated. However, figures published by Scottish Government showed that there are 42,865 homes lying empty for 6 months of more, with approximately 51% of these homes spread over 6 local authorities. In the current climate, with the housing pressures faced by every local authority, it is now more critical than ever, that a data driven approach is adopted. This will help develop a more strategic focus, with the deployment of additional resources for maximum impact.