Capital and Lothians win biggest share to renovate empty houses which are ‘blight on communities’

Picture: AP
Picture: AP
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EDINBURGH and the Lothians are the largest recipients in Scotland of extra funding to bring empty homes back into use for homeless families.

More than £1 million will help private owners renovate properties in exchange for them being made available as affordable housing for at least five years.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the move was far cheaper than building new properties and newly available homes would house hundreds of people, many of whom may be in substandard or temporary accommodation.

In many cases, the properties have been inherited after a relative has died. However, the new owners do not have enough cash to refurbish to a standard where the home could be let out, and are unable to sell.

Ms Sturgeon said: “Empty homes are a blight on many communities across Scotland. Standing empty, these properties are no use to anyone. Renovated, they could provide much needed new homes for hundreds of ­people. Bringing empty homes back into use makes sense because it is a cost- effective way of increasing the supply of housing available to ­families.”

Edinburgh received £750,000 to refurbish 70 properties, more than any other local authority area.

West Lothian was handed £150,000 for 32 properties, Midlothian £125,000 for ten properties, and East Lothian shared a chunk of £450,000 for 56 properties with the Scottish Borders and Fife.

There are around 23,000 empty homes across Scotland that are classed as long-term empty.

In Edinburgh, the latest figures available showed there were 1486 private sector properties empty for more than six months, and of these, 967 had been vacant for a year. This total was up 64 per cent on the 900 disused properties in 2007.

Shelter Scotland said it costs £6000-£25,000 to refurbish an empty home for rent but £100,000 to construct a new build. An empty home also costs in the region of £7000 in council tax and security, the housing campaign group added.

Kristen Hubert, coordinator of the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, which is hosted by Shelter Scotland and funded by the Scottish Government, said: “Having an incentive like a loan to offer owners of empty homes is a key part of getting people to engage with our growing network of empty homes officers and make positive choices about their properties. We will work with the successful bidders to help them make the most of their projects.”