Friday, 26 December 2014

Extra help to tackle empty homes problem

Margaret Burgess (pictured), Scotland’s Housing Minister, has doubled the funding available to the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership (SEHP), an initiative run by charity Shelter Scotland.

The scheme, which works to bring back into use empty private-sector homes, has also been given a 3 year extension to its Scottish Government contract.

In Scotland over the past year, there were 29,326 ‘homeless’ applications for housing, while there were 31,457 homes recorded as being empty for 6 months or more.  Shelter Scotland has indicated it will use the new money - £616,500 - to recruit additional staff, with the target that around 1,200 empty homes per year could be returned to use. 

Mrs Burgess, MSP for the local constituency of Cunninghame South, said, “Empty homes are a blight on both urban and rural communities across Scotland.  Bringing them back into use is a cost-effective way of increasing the supply of housing available to families, and it also aids community regeneration.  That is why the Scottish Government is not only providing a three-year extension to the Empty Homes Partnership, but is also doubling its funding.”

Graeme Brown, Director of Shelter Scotland, noted, “Extending the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership for another three years is great news and we thank the Scottish Government for its strong support and ongoing commitment to this work.

“The progress we have made supporting councils and their partners over the last four years to bring hundreds of empty homes back into use is testament to the hard work and commitment of everyone involved.  Expanding the partnership and putting it on a longer-term footing will allow us to do even more to bring private empty homes back into use.”

A spokesperson for North Ayrshire Council indicated the authority operates an Empty Homes Strategy, saying, “We can help homeowners to bring empty homes back into use, and to prevent currently occupied homes becoming empty.

“The reasons for empty homes are varied.  Some are bought as development projects, where the owners carry out necessary repairs and sell the property.  In other cases the owner may have been taken into hospital or care for an extended period of time, but the property is looked after and maintained by family or friends.  In other instances the owner of an empty home may be struggling to sell their property in the current financial climate.  However, eventually empty homes are liable to fall into disrepair, making their future use less feasible. 

“Empty homes ultimately can have a detrimental impact on communities, as well as being a wasted resource in terms of meeting housing need.”

The spokesperson explained, “Help in the form of interest-free loans is available to bring empty properties back into use in the rented sector.  Eligible properties must require repair or upgrading works.”

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