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Figures reveal only fraction of empty homes have been brought back into use

Only a fraction of empty homes across Scotland have been brought back into use over the past eight years, according to figures.

In a parliamentary answer in June, Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said 2,800 properties have been revived through the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership since 2010.

Owners of empty homes are being encouraged to bring them back into use, with measures including legislative changes, provision of funding and practical advice and assistance, the Scottish Government has said.

However the Scottish Liberal Democrats contrasted the figure provided by Mr Stewart with statistics on the number of long-term vacant private sector homes, which totalled more than 20,000 across Scotland at January 2018.

The party said it would take more than 50 years to refurbish the existing backlog at the same rate of progress since 2010.

The Lib Dems called for efforts to bring properties back into use to be fast-tracked, pointing to the cost difference between doing so and building new homes.

The Scottish Empty Homes Partnership says it costs between £6,000 and £25,000 to refurbish an empty home, compared with the average £100,000 new-build cost, with the added benefit that the infrastructure and local services are already in place, the party said.

Data gathered using freedom of information requests to local authorities showed that at January 2018, there were 20,027 private sector homes which had been vacant for six months or more.

Of these, 5,583 were vacant for more than two years and 2,053 were vacant for more than five years.

Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “The Scottish Government should fast-track new efforts to get these properties back into use and introduce a new help-to-renovate loan to get existing vacant properties up to scratch.

“With the right incentives and help, many of these could be resurrected to help alleviate the housing crisis, tackle homelessness and give young people a better chance of a home to call their own.”

Mr Stewart said: “Privately-owned empty homes can be a blight on communities and are a wasted resource.

“Such homes can become empty for a number of reasons, which is why tailored individual support and advice for owners of these properties from local empty homes officers across the country is often the most effective way of bringing these homes back into use.

“We recently doubled funding for the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership and network of empty homes officers. The dedicated support and advice provided has helped return 742 homes back into use in the last year, bringing the total to more than 3,200 since 2010.

“In addition we are on track to deliver 50,000 affordable homes this term and are proud of our delivery of over 72,500 homes since 2007.”

Source: Herald Scotland

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Hundreds of empty homes on the Isle of Wight, figures show

Official figures show that hundreds of houses and flats on the Isle of Wight have been standing empty for at least half a year. The charity, Empty Homes Agency, said it was concerned official statistics might underestimate the scale of the problem.

Hundreds of houses and flats on the Isle of Wight have been standing empty for at least half a year, official figures have shown.

The council reported 679 long-term vacant homes in October last year, which is roughly the same as the 2016 figure. The data was published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, and is based on council tax records.

Improvements on the Island

Pressure on the government to act on empty homes has been mounting in recent years, as the UK’s housing shortage has led to a decline in home ownership and rising house prices.

If an area has a significant number of empty homes it is more likely to see an increase in vandalism, the collapse of local businesses, and experience a sense of neglect, according to research by the House of Commons Library.

The number of empty homes on the Isle of Wight has been falling in the last few years, down 11% since 2014.

Privately owned empty homes

The latest figures show that the vast majority of empty properties were privately owned. But some of those left vacant were homes for social or affordable rent managed by the housing associations.

On the Isle of Wight, there were 28 empty homes owned by housing associations, a figure which includes those that had been empty for less than six months.

More can be done towards additional housing supply 

The Empty Homes Agency, a charity which campaigns for empty properties to be brought back into use. Their 2018 report found,

“Our research found that local authorities with higher levels of long-term empty homes tend to have lower house prices and more households on lower incomes than the rest of England.

“The government has talked of the need to build 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s. We believe more could be done to generate that additional housing supply through homes that have sat empty over the long-term.”

Scale of the problem underestimated

The charity also said it was concerned that the official statistics might underestimate the scale of the problem.

If a home is unoccupied, its owner will generally still have to pay council tax. Until 2013, owners of homes which had been empty for up to 12 months were automatically exempt if the property was undergoing major building work, but councils are now entitled to set their own discount and may still ask owners to pay the full rate.

On the Isle of Wight, the council voted last year (Jan 2017) to remove the empty home discount, creating extra income for the council budget.

There is a 50% discount for properties empty and unoccupied for two years or more.

Source: On the Wight

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A fifth of England’s empty homes are in the North West

There are 40,000 empty homes in the North West, according to a new report from the National Housing Federation.

That’s a fifth of the total number of unoccupied dwellings in the country.

The North West has the highest number of empty homes in the country and has the same number of empty homes as the North East and Yorkshire and Humber combined.

This is despite the fact that the number of empty homes in the region has almost halved since 2008, when it reached a peak of 73,888.

The North West doesn’t have a housing shortage like other areas of the country but much of the housing stock that does exist isn’t suitable and therefore ends up abandoned or empty. It might be in need of renovation, or located in areas of economic decline, lacking in transport links or with few jobs.

The North West doesn’t have a housing shortage like other areas of the country. Credit: PA

The Federation says that empty homes are having a devastating impact on the local economy and communities.

It can’t be right to leave property empty when so many are desperate for a place to live. Empty properties in some areas are having a profound impact on local markets and those who need housing.

What we need is a genuine commitment to ensuring good quality affordable housing is available at the right price, in the right places and for the right people.

– CIARAN TULLY, NHF

Ciaran Tully, the National Housing Federation’s External Affairs Manager for the North West, said: “Building homes not only creates jobs, but also supports jobs in housing associations once they are built and adds money to the local economy from residents’ spending.

“Housing associations are doing just this but we now need the backing of key local partners to help us build in the right places, free up planning and help us to deliver the types of affordable housing needed most.

“With this support we can not only ramp up supply, but also begin vital regeneration projects, enhance infrastructure and bring empty homes back into use.”

Source: iTV