A key objective for SEHP is to encourage registered social landlords, community groups, third sector organisations and other private bodies to engage in empty homes work. This objective recognised that many of these bodies are housing providers and are struggling to acquire suitable housing to meet the demand that they get for housing every day. They can attract inward investment to empty homes that could make an unattractive project viable.
SEHP seed funding of 3rd sector/LA projects
Homes for Good (HFG) was our first test and learn project starting in August 2021. The project has
a remit to increase the supply of secure, quality homes for people on low incomes or benefits.
Building on from this project, as part of our contract with Scottish Government for 2022-23 we were tasked with working with third sector organisations and local authorities to establish at least 3 strategic & innovative projects to bring empty homes back into use with a specific focus on reducing housing need and providing more affordable homes.
We have delivered on this commitment, establishing projects in Scottish Borders, Western Isles and Argyll and Bute, each of which have a specific focus on the housing needs of the individual local authorities.
For the Scottish Borders project we have partnered with South of Scotland Community Housing (SOSCH), an award winning Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation that provides support to community-led housing across the Southern Scottish region. The project aims to identify and drive new community-led conversions of empty homes and buildings to deliver affordable and sustainable housing solutions in the rural communities across Scottish Borders. An empty homes coordinator has now begun work with community organisations and with Scottish Borders Council, to develop and deliver projects that will address the specific housing needs of individual communities. As well as increasing the availability of much-needed housing, we hope that the project will have a much broader impact, by supporting other non-housing outcomes. We will be looking to extend the project beyond Scottish Borders during its second year.
The second project is with Tighean Innse Gall (TIG) a community housing development service that supports people to rent, buy and live in comfortable, affordable homes, promote healthy independent living and assist businesses and communities to be more sustainable. Working closely with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s (Western Isles Council) the project aims to tackle the issue of empty homes in Outer Hebrides through purchasing and refurbishing empty homes. These will be made available to members of the community through social rent, mid-market rent, and rent-to-buy. The homes brought back into use over the course of the two year project will help to revitalise rural communities across the Island chain, making them more attractive to people and families who wish to remain on the Island and also attracting new people and families to re-locate to the islands.
For the third project we have established a partnership with Argyll and Bute Health & Social Care Partnership (A&B HSCP), and Argyll & Bute Council that will see empty homes being brought back into use to help to tackle the shortage of affordable housing for health and social care workers across the region. The project, which is the first of its kind in Scotland, will see the appointment of an Empty Homes Project Officer (EHPO) who will work A&B HSCP in areas where an inability to source local accommodation has impacted on recruitment. The project will establish local housing needs including type, size and locations of accommodation needed and look to identify suitable ’empty home matches’ to bring homes back into use for A&B HSCP key/essential workers through tenancy agreements with owners and registered social landlords.
As innovative projects, while we have looked to set ambitious but realistic targets it is important to recognise that the projects are breaking new ground and that a key part of each project will include assessing what works, testing established thinking and assumptions on what is preventing homes from being brought back into use and what will work to unlock them. As such, what we learn from the projects and the development of best practice models that may enable and encourage other organisations to invest in empty homes work, will also be important outcomes from each of the projects.