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The Scottish Empty Homes Partnership (SEHP) has warned that crumbling bricks, broken windows and overgrown gardens of empty homes across Scotland could be a visual legacy of the economic crisis caused by the pandemic, if action is not taken to bring more properties back into use.
The organisation plans to work with local authorities to bring Scotland’s almost 50,000 empty homes back into use as part of Covid-19 recovery plans.
Scottish Government figures published in December show 47,333 properties in Scotland had been empty for 6 months or more, up 16% (6370) from the previous year. The full impact of Covid-19 on the number of long-term empty homes is still emerging, and the figures may continue to rise for some time.
SEHP has also raised concerns that the pandemic could impact Scotland’s ability to deliver 50,000 new affordable homes – an important and cost-effective way to provide affordable housing. The average cost of returning an empty home to a habitable state is between £6,000 and £12,000, ten times less than the average cost of building a new home.
Furthermore, bringing empty homes back into use can provide a vital income stream to businesses and the local economy. Scottish Government figures show that every £1 spent on renovating property in Scotland generates £1.60 for the economy.
Shaheena Din, National Project Manager for Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, said:
“Images of empty homes came to symbolise economic decline and the loss of vibrant communities across Scotland in the 1980s and recent figures show the Covid-19 crisis is already causing more empty homes in Scotland.
“We must act now to ensure empty homes do not become a legacy of the pandemic. By investing in dedicated empty home services, councils can help make homes available for those who need them, improve local communities and deliver a much-needed boost to local economies.
“No area is immune so we need the 11 councils without a dedicated service to create one urgently, and for all local authorities to prioritise support for bringing empty homes back in to use as part of their recovery and rebuilding plans.”