Empty homes tipped to help solve Scotland’s housing shortage

Mike Callaghan (policy manager, CoSLA); Shaheena Din (national project manager, Scottish Empty Homes Partnership); and Andy Moseley (senior policy officer, Scottish Empty Homes Partnership)

THE Scottish Empty Homes Partnership (SEHP) has published a new guide demonstrating how bringing some of Scotland’s 43,000+ long term empty homes back to use can help  address housing shortages.

“Why Empty Homes Matter” was launched at the Annual Scottish Empty Homes Conference in Edinburgh. The guide was prepared in partnership with CoSLA and the Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers (ALACHO).  It describes the role empty homes can play in helping deliver the road map for housing set out in the Scottish Government’s “Housing to 2040” strategy.

The document shows how empty homes work can reduce pressure on emergency accommodation, attract new private sector investment, create more vibrant communities, and drive down carbon emissions.

Examples showcased in the guide include:

  • An Open Market Purchase Scheme in North Lanarkshire which has invested over £12 million, to increase the supply of homes, supplementing a new house building programme.
  • A Matchmake programme in Aberdeen that allows the council to facilitate a match between owners of empty homes and people on council housing waiting lists.
  • The redevelopment of an old mill building in Arbroath which been used for 24 homes being made available for social rent in the town centre.
  • A Trust in the Western Isles long term vision to reverse a century of population decline including by providing more affordable good housing and improved community facilities.

Speakers at the conference included Shona Robison MSP (cabinet secretary for housing), Phil Prentice (Scotland’s Towns Partnership), and Petra Biberbach (Planning Aid Scotland).  The conference also heard from a person who had lived next to an empty home describing the effect the deterioration of the property and anti-social behaviour associated with it had on her health and wellbeing before it was brought back in to use.

Speaking at the conference, Andy Moseley, senior policy officer for SEHP, said, “Scottish Government has set ambitious targets in its Housing to 2040 strategy.  Although not a solution on its own, empty homes work offers a way to meet those objectives faster, enhancing existing local communities and with far less environmental impact.

“We have all seen stories about housing shortages of across Scotland.  A sharper focus on bringing empty homes back in to use can be a key part of providing the housing Scotland needs to address these shortages now and in the future.”

Councillor Kelly Parry, CoSLA spokesperson for community wellbeing, said, “Local authorities play a critical role in bringing empty homes back into use. Why Empty Homes Matter demonstrates exactly why empty homes work is so important for the future of housing in Scotland, particularly in the context of Housing to 2040. We hope this will be a useful resource for councils working with partners across Scotland.”

John Mills, co-chair of ALACHO, added, “Empty homes work is sometimes misunderstood as being a niche housing issue, but tackling Scotland’s 43,000 empty homes has a much wider impact on neighbourhoods, environment and local economies among other issue areas. Why Empty Homes Matter puts empty homes work into that broader context and we hope a range of teams within local governments across Scotland will find it a helpful source of information.”