New council post to tackle ‘blight’ of empty homes

Council tax data will be used to ensure levies on long-term empty homes are applied.

Homes: Edinburgh has the highest rental rates in Scotland
Homes: Edinburgh has the highest rental rates in Scotland

A new council post has been created to tackle the issue of high rents and housing shortages in Edinburgh.

The City of Edinburgh Council is to employ an Empty Homes Officer in a bid to tackle the high number of long-term, empty, privately-owned properties in the capital.

The city currently has the highest rental rates in Scotland and house prices are continuing to rise.

The new post is supported by the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, which is funded by the Scottish Government and run by Shelter Scotland.

The Empty Homes Officer will advise home owners on selling their empty properties or becoming private landlords, with the aim of making more homes available to buyers and renters.

Council tax data will also be used to make sure additional levies on homes left empty for more than 12 months are applied.

Councillor Kate Campbell, Edinburgh’s Housing, Homelessness and Fair Work Convener, said: “We face incredible pressure on housing supply in Edinburgh which is one of the key factors causing high rents.

 “While less than 1% of homes in Edinburgh are empty for more than a year, we still have close to 100 cases where we know vacant properties could be providing safe, warm and much needed homes.

“Returning these homes to their proper use will be the priority of our empty homes officer and will be another important tool for increasing the number of homes available for residents to live in.”

Housing minister Kevin Stewart added: “Empty homes and derelict buildings can be a blight on communities which is why we invest £400,000 each year to support the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership.

“We are already seeing real results, with an increase of supply of good quality homes at a rate of 100 per month and over 5,000 in total.

“The key to this success is the network of dedicated Empty Homes Officers and that’s why I am pleased that the council has now appointed someone to provide this vital service to help provide more homes for the people of Edinburgh.

“I strongly encourage local authorities across the country to follow Edinburgh’s lead in recognising the benefits of this approach and bring them to the communities they serve.”

Shaheena Din, national manager for the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, said: “We’re delighted to be working with the council to kick start an empty homes service in Edinburgh.

“The city has one of the most pressured housing markets in Scotland and it makes no sense for properties to be sitting empty, potentially causing problems for neighbours, when they could be homes for people.

“Last year 1,128 homes were brought back into use following intervention by a local council in Scotland, more than 90% of them in areas with a dedicated empty homes officer.

“We look forward to Edinburgh seeing fantastic results from the new service.”

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