Does the third sector hold the key to unlocking empty homes?

Housing scotland

Shaheena Din examines the work that is going on to bring empty homes in Scotland back into use

TFN Guest's photo

20th December 2018 by TFN Guest 0 Comments

For eight years, the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership has been working to increase the number of privately-owned empty homes brought back into use.

From a standing start we’re now at 3,652 properties which were long-term empty that are now homes once again. Whilst this is tremendous progress it can still be dispiriting when contrasted with the current total; 39,110 homes currently lie empty in a country with an affordable housing shortage.

It’s clear that Scotland needs to see a step-change in delivery of empty homes work and that councils cannot do this on their own. They’re not in control of the reasons why homes lie empty – largely driven by life events such as bereavement or elderly people going into long-term residential care. However, they can and do support owners or buyers to bring these properties back into use.

Shaheena Din

Shaheena Din

The Scottish Empty Homes Partnership is keen to highlight the achievement of YMCA Glenrothes who have created a model which allows so much good to come out of a problem. They’re housing people, but also renovating houses which will be good news for neighbours. No-one wants to live beside an empty and neglected property. They’re also providing opportunities for training to local college students. So many people are benefiting from each property brought back into use.

A home is a foundation for a good life. The 2015 Commission for Housing and Wellbeing highlighted just how many of our ambitions for a Scotland which is fairer, healthier and more prosperous rely on each of us first enjoying the security and stability of a decent home. Empty properties are very often in existing communities, sometimes causing trouble for neighbours and occasionally forming a cluster which begins to pull a community down. Bringing those properties back into use is at the heart of regeneration.

Community organisations and charities which identify the shortage of good housing as a priority for those they serve could well find that funding is available for them to take on this work to contribute to a wide range of social goals. If they do rise to this challenge they will find that help is available. In most areas of Scotland councils employ an empty homes officer (EHO) – a specialist who can guide anyone taking on a renovation or building project for the first time in their lives. These services are critical to the success of Scotland’s bid to end the waste of empty property. Our Empty Homes Advice Service can help individuals or organisations who need guidance on tackling a project.

If your organisation’s aims align with the benefits good housing and community regeneration brings you may find that funding can be used to buy and renovate empty properties and, whether it’s one or 10 or 100, you will know that each of them will mean the world to someone who gets to call it home.

To contact the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership email [email protected] or call 0344 515 1941.

Shaheena Din is national manager for the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership