Bringing empty homes back into use is a cost-effective way of increasing housing supply and can contribute to some of the goals as set out in Housing to 2040. In particular, we want to ensure where possible, more empty homes are made available as affordable or social homes. This year 148 homes were brought back into affordable housing supply through empty homes buyback schemes. We know these homes represent value for money and can play a small but important contribution to the 110,000 affordable homes commitment, (of which 70% should be social homes) over the next ten years up to 2032 and we will share any best practice on this.
It is still our ambition to see at least one empty homes officer in every council in Scotland, but in areas of greatest housing need and higher volumes of empty homes, we would recommend increased capacity at a local level, so that there is enough of a focus on both operational and strategic priorities. The Scottish Government have committed to an audit of empty homes and to do this effectively, councils will need to have a better handle of their empty homes data.
We will continue our work to raise the profile of empty homes work both at a local and national level, telling the stories of the negative impact that empty homes can have on communities and the positive difference of bringing these homes back into use. We will provide support to any local authority looking for further information in their local area.
We know that further legislative powers are needed, however we will encourage councils to use the Compulsory Purchase Order powers which already exist. We will proactively seek to collaborate with other council departments including, planning, environmental health and council tax to ensure that there is a better, more coordinated approach across relevant departments to bring more empty homes back into use. And we will continue to call for Compulsory Sale and Compulsory Rental Order powers so that there are more options available for homes that are causing a blight on the community and cannot be brought back into use with any other approach.
We will actively develop partnership work to ensure more key organisations and stakeholders are engaged and supporting empty homes work. These strategic partnerships will be formed based on local housing priorities and will demonstrate how more homes can be brought back into circulation, leading to better neighbourhoods and places. It is hoped that these will attract further investment to unlock more homes.
We have seen in an improvement in feedback from the officer network and we will build on this to meet our objective of supporting the network. We will work in an environment of continuous improvement and we will plan policy specific forums in collaboration with the Scottish Government, to explore what is working well and what is required or could be improved.
Finally, we aim to launch online self help tools for owners and neighbours of empty homes, encouraging more homes back into use. The Advice Service sees the impact of empty homes on our communities on a daily basis. Bringing these back into use alleviates the blight they face. To this end we will continue to use creative approaches to encourage more owners to seek help with their properties. By providing them with the tools they need, we will help to highlight the issue and facilitate more action being taken. We are also seeking to build closer links with other organisations to expand the Advice Service’s reach.