October 21, 2015
Fill those empty homes
The causes of Scotland’s housing crisis are many and complex. Land reformers argue that sky-high land values are at the root of the problem. House builders point to the planning system as a major obstacle. While building new houses is necessary and important, (Shelter estimate 12,000 new houses per annum are required) Shelter also reckon there are 27,000 long term empty homes in Scotland – and they’re calling on communities to help them bring these homes back into use. They have some free tickets to their conference (17th Nov in Edinburgh) if you’d like to find out more.
A paper from Shelter
There are currently 27,000 long term empty homes in Scotland, and we work to try and encourage partner organisations such as local authorities, housing associations and community groups to tackle the problem of empty homes in their area, using a variety of different approaches. The Local Projects Service exists to help those partners get their ideas off the ground, and bring empty property back into use. This could even include former commercial property, such as a hotel or pub, being converted into flats.
At the Partnership we often get asked “what can community groups do about this?” It might seem like community groups would be powerless to do anything about empty homes in their area, that it should be down to the local authority to deal with it. In fact, there are a number of ways community groups can help, starting with small things, like reporting empty homes to their local council, or putting pressure on the council to start to address the issue of empty homes in their area, if they don’t already do so. Then there are the more hands-on approaches; going out and looking for empty homes, sourcing funding, starting renovation work and eventually letting the properties out.
The Partnership can help with each of these processes. We can make that connection between community groups and the person responsible for dealing with empty homes in their area; this can help with identifying genuinely empty properties. We can suggest viable sources of funding, and advise how best to let out the properties, giving examples collated from around the country. Of course, we don’t know everything; the Partnership is as its name suggests, a meeting of minds, coming together to solve a problem that affects us all. So if anybody has a new idea, no matter how unformed it may seem, then please bring it to us. The Local Project Service is there to help support just these sort of ideas and do all we can to bring them to life.
We are committed to bringing as many empty homes back into use as possible, and we’d like to think we’re pretty good at that; the number of homes brought into use each year that the Partnership has existed as increase exponentially year after year. However we are based in Edinburgh, and whilst we try and get out and about and see as much of the country as we can, this is no substitute for actually being based in a community. Community groups know their area much better than we ever can, and have a high level of expertise in identifying both problems and opportunities in their area.
We’re really only just beginning to scratch the surface when it comes to community groups helping to tackle empty homes; to that end we are offering a limited number of free spots for community groups at the Scottish Empty Homes Conference on 17th November. The conference is at the Macdonald Holyrood Hotel, Edinburgh and this year’s theme is Local Costs/Local Benefits, which will explore the damage done by empty homes, and in turn look at the benefit that tackling those empty homes can have for communities. I can be contacted on 0344 515 2237 or email Gavin_Leask@shelter.org.uk to discuss your plans or book a place at the conference.