There are many reasons why local authorities need to work to bring empty homes back to use. All of them come down to people.
It is important for people who are struggling to find an affordable and secure home to rent or buy in the cities, towns or villages where they work or grew up in, while properties that could be their homes are lying empty.
It is important for people who live in the same street as an empty home and whose physical and mental health can be adversely affected as the condition of the house deteriorates and it becomes the focus of anti-social behaviour.
It is important for people who have inherited a property and are looking for practical help and support to bring it back into use, but instead are receiving bills for double council tax.
And it is important for people who are trying to bring an empty home back to use, whether they underestimated what would be involved in renovating a home, had to leave a home for work or family reasons, or have found that the second home they used to occasionally visit is now a luxury that they can’t afford.
Where empty homes are brought back to use it helps people and it helps places.
For each empty home brought back into use, a family will benefit and be able to put down roots. This means that another family is contributing to the local community. Whether they are providing an essential service through their work, going to local shops, cafes, pubs and leisure facilities or carrying out work on the property using local builders and contractors they are supporting the local economy. Scottish Government figures show that every £1 spent on renovating property in Scotland generates £1.60 for the economy.
Empty homes can quickly have a negative effect on the local property market, creating buyer suspicion and reducing interest in an area. Bringing homes back to use can turn this into a positive message, as confidence and pride in the community returns.
In areas where there is a shortage of homes and rising prices, empty homes can make the difference between people staying in the area they grew up in, living and working in it and helping to sustain the community, or moving away from it and adding to the skills drain that many smaller communities are facing.
These are just some of the reasons why empty homes work is important.
The difference it can make to people and communities is highlighted by many of the case studies in this report. At the same time, the problems that get worse the longer a home remains empty are also shown in the case studies.
We see people whose lives have been ruined by the problems of living next door to nightmare empty homes, but we also see people who, through the intervention of empty homes officers or the Scottish Empty Homes Advice Service, have been able to bring homes back to use and end the problems they were causing them.
Elsewhere, we set out the wider contributions empty homes can make to the delivery of the Scottish Government’s Housing to 2040 route map, which was the subject of our Why Empty Homes Matter paper launched at our recent annual conference.
All of this shows why it is important to work to bring empty homes back to use and why doing nothing to address the problems of empty homes is not an option.