Aberdeen City Council, an Inverness-based building company, a community housing project in Dumfries & Galloway and a Fife Council officer were the winners in the 10th Scottish Empty Homes awards sponsored by Fraser & Fraser Genealogists and International Probate Researchers.
The winners, announced yesterday at the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership annual conference, recognised the efforts of individuals, private businesses and council staff in bringing nearly 1500 empty homes back in to use in 2019/20.
The winners were as follows:
- Outstanding Empty Homes Service: Aberdeen City Council Empty Homes Working Group
- Best Long-term restoration project: Moniaive Initiative & South of Scotland Community Housing for Sawmill Green, Moniaive
- Best Commercial Service: Howden’s Joinery, Inverness
- Outstanding Individual: Joanne Saurin, Empty Homes Officer, Fife Council
Shaheena Din, National Project Manager for the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, said:
“I am delighted for all of this year’s awards winners. In difficult circumstances, they have all shown an incredible willingness to go above and beyond to help bring empty homes back in to use. The Covid-19 pandemic shows how important it is going to be in coming years to continue that hard work and we look forward to seeing what everyone involved in bringing empty homes back in to use will achieve in the next 12 months.”
Kevin Stewart, Scottish Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning, said:
“It is encouraging that in the midst of hard times, we have seen continued dedication from hard-working people and companies. The Scottish Government greatly appreciates all of the effort that has gone into bringing empty homes back into use over the past year.”
Neil Fraser, Partner at Fraser & Fraser, said:
“We are delighted to be supporting the 10th Scottish Empty Homes Annual Conference Awards Ceremony. Throughout this difficult year, it is so important to recognise those going above and beyond for the cause of empty homes. With a record number of empty homes brought back into use in 2020, there have been some very inspiring nominations.”
About the winners
Moniaive Initiative & South of Scotland Community Housing for Sawmill Green, Moniaive
Judges awarded the “Best Long-term Restoration project” to South of Scotland Community Housing and Moniaive Initiatives for brining Sawmill Green back in to use after it had been lying empty for 13 years, transforming it into a fully accessible amenity home, meeting local housing need in a rural area.
A feasibility award was attained from the Scottish Government’s Rural Housing Fund to appraise the condition of the property and works required to entirely reconfigure the house. This led to successful application for capital grant from the Rural Housing Fund and the award of a grant from SSE’s regional Sustainable Development Fund to acquire, strip out and reconfigure the house as a fully accessible amenity home.
Joanne Saurin: Empty Homes Officer, Fife Council
The judges recognised Joanne Saurin for her amazing work with Fife Council which has included her work to bring 395 properties back in to use since taking up her post in 2014.
Even during the Covid pandemic, Joanna has worked to review the council’s empty homes strategy and submitted a proposal to change the terms of the council’s empty homes loan fund to make the scheme more attractive to owners in Fife. Judges were particularly impressed with Joanne’s ability to work on the strategic direction of the service as well as brining so many homes back in to use, as well as her ability to build relationships with owners and investors.
Aberdeen City Council Empty Homes Working Group
The Empty Homes Working Group at Aberdeen City Council is a group of professionals from across the council identified by the Empty Homes Service. They include; Empty Homes Officer; Housing Strategy; Council Tax; Housing Access Service; Private Sector Housing; Energy Officer; Solicitors; Environmental Health; Planners; and Building Standards.
The judges felt that the group embodied partnership working in the city to target empty homes. Key outcomes that impressed the judges were bringing in excess of 137 empty properties back in to use; using discretionary powers to support engaging owners that need financial support; access to council tax and recovery staff to cut waiting times; 22 buyers arranged through a Matchmaker scheme to match owners of properties with tenants and/or buyers; focus on digital solutions.
Howden’s Joinery, Inverness
Winner of the Best Commercial Service contributing to bringing Empty Homes back in to use, Howden’s Joinery in Inverness impressed the judges by their willingness to go the extra mile to help bring empty homes back in to use, particularly in harder to reach areas.
The branch was described as “instrumental” in helping to provide kitchens and other materials provide a service to empty home owners.
With a high-quality product and competitive prices, empty home owners have been to afford the kitchen they really want which can make all the difference when seeking to rent out or sell a property.