Edinburgh Council employs dedicated empty homes officer to bring properties back into use

Housing chiefs have hired a new dedicated official to help brings homes left empty across the Capital back into use.

Wednesday, 22nd January 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 22nd January 2020, 10:20 am
Edinburgh City Council has employed an empty homes officer

Edinburgh City Council has employed a dedicated ’empty homes officer’ to help tackle the waste of long-term, empty, privately-owned properties.

The new recruit will harness council tax data to make sure additional charges on homes that are left empty for more than 12 months are applied appropriately – creating a financial incentive for home owners to take action.

The post-holder will focus on advising home owners about their options, including selling their property or becoming a private landlord, making more homes available to buyers and renters.

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Cllr 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. That’s why we have committed to building 20,000 affordable homes by 2027, why we’ve worked so hard to bring about regulation of short term lets and why we are continuing to work on building the case for a rent pressure zone.

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“While less than one per cent of homes in Edinburgh are empty for more than a year, we still have close to 100 pending 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.”

The new position is supported by the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, which is funded by the Scottish Government and run by housing charity, Shelter Scotland. A dedicated empty homes officer was first touted by Green councillors last year.

Green Cllr Chas Booth said: “I’m pleased that one the Green budget asks of last year for an empty homes officer is being delivered. All the evidence from across Scotland is that a dedicated post is what really gets homes returned to use. So far Edinburgh has been behind the curve so I look forward to a rapid catch up.

“It’s especially important in a city of acute need for housing and real pressure on new land for housing. Every single empty property brought back into use is a home for someone and reduced pressure on precious space.

“Now we need to see empty homes work going hand in hand with a reduction in homes lost to holiday lets so that city properties are being used for what they are needed for.”

The appointment has been welcomed by the Scottish Government, which has urged other councils to follow Edinburgh’s lead.

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

“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.”