Since 2012, the SEHP has instigated and run several Kickstarter and Shared Service projects across Scotland.
During the period of this report, the SEHP part funded Kickstarter projects across 3 local authorities. The funding comes with consultancy support from the empty homes team as well as an advisory steer. Any council that does not have an EHO can be provided with tailored empty homes information that can help to make the case for a service.
South Lanarkshire Council
SEHP provided matched funding for the EHO post from August 20 – 22 to test the value of an EHO post, and since then this post has become permanent. Year one was used to put in place structures, systems and to build relationships. However, the initially appointed EHO found a new job which caused a minor setback, before getting empty homes work back on track. Positive outcomes during the funding period are below:
• 15 properties back into use
• Development of an empty homes grant scheme
• Empty homes linked to the council’s Open Market Purchase Scheme
• Work on a comprehensive report to give the council a better understanding of the homes lying empty
The biggest challenge reported by the EHO has been getting owners to engage and work with them to bring the empty home back into use.
This is a common theme across the network and highlights the importance of additional enforcement tools.
The Highland Council EHO started in August 2021 and most of year one was spent developing the service. Unfortunately, the staff member left in August 2022, and with various internal recruitment issues, the post was only filled in April 2023. Positive outcomes include 16 homes back into use during this period, but information at this point is limited.
Scottish Borders Council
The empty homes officer started in early August 2021 and has established an empty homes service with a strategic approach taken from early on. Positive outcomes include:
• 15 homes reported back into use this period
• Development of an empty homes strategy
• GPS mapping and data collection of empty homes
• Empty homes grant scheme established
• 18 grant applications, 12 of which have been approved with a total spend of £275K
• 9 of the grant applications have brought homes back into affordable use
• Council tax discretion process streamlined
• Prevention letter sent to all owners about to be charged the empty homes levy offering advice and assistance
• Partnership working with other bodies in the local area