Aberdeen joins the national fight against empty homes

Owners struggling to bring a long-term empty home back into use are to be given support and advice from a new service being launched by Aberdeen City Council.

The empty homes service is the local authority’s response to a growing number of privately-owned properties sitting empty longer term. Scottish Government figures showed that in 2017-2018 there was a 14 per cent increase with 2,989 properties now listed as long-term empty, that’s the second highest number of any council in the country.

Empty homes become empty through normal life events; a death, people moving away for work, marriage or divorce.

They typically become stuck when people don’t have the money, knowledge or motivation to know what to do next.

Sometimes owners disappear and in other situations a property may be inherited by more than one person and there is no agreement on the next step.

The new service will employ one full-time specialist Empty Homes Officer to help track down owners and encourage them to get to grips with the situation with the aim of returning empty homes to the housing stock.

This might involve advising them on how to bring a property up to standard for rent or sale or helping them find a developer who will buy a building that needs work.

The new service is being part-funded by the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership. During the two-year pilot it will provide support and advice to owners and also to neighbours living near an empty property which is causing them concern.

The service will focus on properties which have been empty for 12 months or more.

The Scottish Empty Homes Partnership (SEHP) is run by housing charity Shelter Scotland and funded by the Scottish Government.

Councillor Sandra Macdonald, Aberdeen City Council housing spokesperson, said: “This is one of several initiatives we have to help boost the supply of housing for those seeking to buy or rent and will help improve the affordability of the entire housing market through increased supply.

We are building 2,000 new council homes across the city and we are working closely with partners such as housing associations to increase the supply of affordable homes. As a council, we have also innovated to improve processes for re-letting vacant council houses.

With a continued high demand for affordable homes, it makes sense for us to intervene to offer advice and support to help bring as many of these empty properties back into use as quickly as possible.”

Shaheena Din, SEHP national manager, said: “We are delighted to welcome Aberdeen into the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership. We support a network of specialist empty homes officers working right across Scotland and while there will be issues particular to Aberdeen’s local housing market there will be opportunities to introduce solutions that have worked elsewhere. We know that having a specialist member of staff dedicated to supporting owners, neighbours and community groups to tackling empty homes is the most effective way forward.”