Edinburgh Council told to ‘get its act together’ over empty homes

A general view of Edinburgh City Council Headquarters in Market Street. Picture: Scott Louden
A general view of Edinburgh City Council Headquarters in Market Street. Picture: Scott Louden
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The city council has been told to “get its act together” to tackle empty homes after it was revealed almost 1,500 properties have been left vacant in the Capital for more than a year.

Green councillors are calling for dedicated staff to sort out the situation after only 16 homes have been brought back into use by the SNP-Labour administration at City Chambers in the space of six months. The Capital is facing a housing shortage amid a growing population.

The council’s own analysis shows that 1,448 homes have remained empty for at least 12 months, including 206 in the city centre, 141 in Southside/Newington, 105 in Leith and 103 in Morningside. A total of 548 empty properties have been classed as owing council tax.

Last year, the council set out an ambition for “a more interventionist approach” to free up problematic long-term empty homes. In Glasgow, two empty homes officers have been recruited to bring properties back into use and the Capital is being asked to follow suit.

Green Cllr Claire Miller thinks the council “needs to get its act together” to tackle empty homes.

She said: “Despite being top of the league for the number of private empty homes in Scotland, Edinburgh is lagging far behind other councils on taking firm action.

“New powers for compulsory sale will help a bit but still only for a very few properties. That is why Green councillors will be pressing for the council to have what other councils have – dedicated staff to work with owners to get homes into use.  With over £1 million coming each year in double council tax for empty homes, it can pay for itself as well – a real win-win.”

The council insists that  the overall number of empty homes in the Capital is “limited” with less than 2 per cent in any ward remaining vacant for more than 12 months. Data from the Scottish Government shows that the number of homes vacant for at least six months doubled from 2,552 in 2010 to 5,332 in 2018.

Housing and economy convener, Cllr Kate Campbell said: “Less than 1 per cent  of homes in the city are vacant for more than 12 months and we think this is because of Edinburgh’s buoyant property market.

“But this also means solutions that work for other local authorities, like buying empty homes to turn into social housing, aren’t affordable in Edinburgh because of high house prices.”