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Scottish Empty Homes Partnership – Our Year in Review

On the last day of 2022, the team at Scottish Empty Homes Partnership want to reflect on our achievements in the past year.

Innovative Kickstarter projects launched to bring empty homes back to use

Our project with Tighean Innse Gall will support revitalising rural communities across the Western Island chain, making them more attractive to people and families who wish to remain, and attract new people and families to the islands. Our project with South of Scotland Community Housing will support community organisations to develop and deliver community-led housing projects that address specific affordable housing needs of individual communities across South East Scotland.

International Recognition of our work

We raised awareness of our work and that of the Empty Homes Officer network on an international stage when our policy and projects manager was invited to speak at the Reclaiming Vacant Properties conference in Chicago in September. Through his presentation he showcased the contribution that empty homes can make to tackling the housing emergency, and to bring empty properties back to use.

Delivery of Empty Homes Strategy Framework sessions

We delivered the first of our face to face and digital Empty Homes Strategy Framework sessions, attended by Empty Homes Officers (EHOs), elected members, and partner organisations covering over 18 local authorities. It was encouraging to see ideas flowing of how empty homes work can help local authorities in the delivery of their local housing strategies. As one participant summed things up:-

“It feels good to be back amongst friends and talking about how we can make improvements across services”.

Sharing best practice on Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO)

We have continued to share best practice on use of CPO with the most recent digital inter local authority event we chaired attended by 90 people from 22 local authorities.

Training to the empty homes officer network

This year we’ve continued to build up knowledge and training within the Empty Homes Officer network. Our Partnership Officer delivered training sessions to 6 new members of the empty homes network. These included practitioners from Perth and Kinross, East Dunbartonshire, Aberdeenshire and Dumfries and Galloway. These sessions also allowed those new to the network to link in with their peers.

Assisting members of the public affected by empty homes issues

On the Scottish Empty Homes Advice Service our advisers have received over 470 empty homes related queries in the last year, with people continuing to get in touch as we write this. In that time the enquiries received have covered every local authority in Scotland. The top issues of concern to empty home owners were funding, council tax and issues with selling and letting out homes.

With the diverse range of topics we give advice on it’s hard to pick a particular highlight. However, we recently learned that two empty homes we’d been made aware of were to be sold at auction, following repossession. These long standing homes not only were a blight on the street with boarded and shuttered windows and doors, and overgrown gardens, but were also a security concern to the elderly neighbour next door. Relatives got in touch with us worried about their safety due to unauthorised access, feeling like they were getting nowhere. We gave advice on processes to follow to deal with antisocial behaviour and also worked with the Empty Homes Officer to understand the barriers preventing the case from moving forward. With a closing date in sight, we hope that the prospect of these homes being under new ownership, and being lived in again, will allow the neighbour to have peaceful enjoyment of their own home again.

With our second round of empty homes strategy sessions, our 12th annual conference on 1st March, and the launch of our neighbour guides to look forward to, 2023 is looking like a busy year already.

Here’s to 2023!