Call for action to end empty homes 'spiral of decline' in Scotland

More than one in 20 homes in parts of the Scottish Borders have been lying empty on a long-term basis, a new report has shown.

Tuesday, 29th September 2020, 4:45 pm

The unused houses are among 40,000 privately owned properties lying vacant across Scotland.

Experts say the situation is harming communities in some small towns and action should be taken to halt a “spiral of decline” and encourage regeneration.

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The Scottish Empty Homes Partnership (SEHP), set up to help local authorities to bring empty properties back into use, has published new data showing more than five per cent of properties in Galashiels and Hawick were classified as long-term empty in each of the past four years.

This characterful home in Coldstream in the Scottish Borders has been successfully refurbished after lying empty for a long period of time
This characterful home in Coldstream in the Scottish Borders has been successfully refurbished after lying empty for a long period of time

Evidence suggests large numbers of unoccupied homes can significantly damage an area by attracting anti-social behaviour, reducing interest from potential buyers and creating a downward trend that dents the local economy.

SEHP is calling for targeted efforts to bring these properties back into service, encouraging repopulation, boosting local businesses and creating sustainable regeneration.

It is estimated that every £1 spent on doing up property in Scotland generates £1.60 for the economy.

Shaheena Din, national project manager for SEHP, said: “It is rarely through choice that a home is left long-term empty.

“With the right support, owners are able to renovate properties to bring them back into use, either for sale or rent.

“A dedicated empty homes service can work proactively with owners of long-term empty properties to bring them back into use and improve areas that have become the focus of antisocial behaviour and neglect.

“We also know there is an economic benefit to bringing empty properties back in to use, with money used to renovate property more likely to be spent in the local area, helping small businesses that have been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The partnership has been working with Borders Council to demonstrate the need for an empty homes officer, a role that already exists in 21 local authorities across Scotland, to work with homeowners.

Declining populations and new-builds are key factors causing a rise in empty homes and a drop in dwellings being brought back into use, according to the partnership.

SEHP is funded by the Scottish Government and hosted by homeless charity Shelter Scotland.

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