Edinburgh council homes: 1500 vacant council homes labelled a ‘scandal of neglect’ as campaigners protest outside City Chambers

Members of Living Rent made their voices heard at the City Chambers
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Campaigners from tenant’s union Living Rent gathered outside the City Chambers calling on the council to repair and rent out a large number of empty homes in Edinburgh.

Members from Living Rent’s Lochend branch said their protest comes after it was revealed there are 1,456 unused council homes in the Capital in addition to ‘long waiting lists’ for social housing. Chants of ‘empty hooses no excuses’ could be heard as campaigners demonstrated outside council offices during a housing, homelessness and fair work committee meeting. Members also made a deputation to the committee, urging councillors to make homes available for those who need them.

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Following the meeting on August 8, it was agreed that further discussions would take place between Living Rent members and the service director for housing and homelessness, Derek McGowan.

Living Rent members protested outside the City Chambers today. Matthew Kirk of Living Rent said: “Currently there is about 1500 empty council homes in Edinburgh, that equates to roughly one in 14 of the council’s housing stock is lying empty."Living Rent members protested outside the City Chambers today. Matthew Kirk of Living Rent said: “Currently there is about 1500 empty council homes in Edinburgh, that equates to roughly one in 14 of the council’s housing stock is lying empty."
Living Rent members protested outside the City Chambers today. Matthew Kirk of Living Rent said: “Currently there is about 1500 empty council homes in Edinburgh, that equates to roughly one in 14 of the council’s housing stock is lying empty."

Speaking to the Evening News after making his deputation, Matthew Kirk of Living Rent said: “The deputation was well received by a lot of the councillors and we got our primary ask which was a meeting with Derek McGowan who can actually get the wheels in motion and get this work done. So I’m hopeful we can get this moving forward and get these empty homes filled as a matter of priority.”

Following a FOI request to the council, Living Rent learned that 867 (60 per cent) of vacant council homes in Edinburgh were not eligible for rent due to outstanding repairs as of June 12. A further 259 (18 per cent) were deemed ‘unable to let’ with some properties being scheduled for demolition whilst other new builds were awaiting final inspections.

The report also showed that 653 properties have been vacant for more than 12 months and 483 homes have been unused for a period between three and 12 months. The report stated that whilst the council’s target to make empty homes available is 28 days that ‘the average re-let time in 2022/23 was 107 days’ due to ‘the number of long-term Voids being worked through currently.’

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Mr Kirk said: “Currently there are about 1,500 empty council homes in Edinburgh, that equates to roughly one in 14 of the council’s housing stock is lying empty. At the same time we’ve got 23,000 people on a waiting list for social homes – a lot of these houses have been empty since the 1990s. This is a scandal of neglect quite frankly that we can have people waiting up to 15 years for a social home when we’ve got 1500 sitting there lying empty.”

Mr Kirk added: “We estimate that it will cost about £30 million to repair all of these homes, the council have just spent £37 million on George Street – one of the most affluent streets in the city so it’s not an issue of money, it’s an issue of priorities. The council persistently would much rather spend money on things that go towards tourism or things that are going to help businesses rather than help the actual people of Edinburgh. Places like Lochend are just being neglected.”

Laura Jackman, co-chair for Living Rent Lochend branch said: “We need more social housing, which means more homes must be built, but right now the council can fill the properties they already have and house some of those waiting. Turning vacant properties into quality homes should be a top priority.”

A council spokesperson said that 800 council homes are awaiting repair and more than 200 have been repaired and are going through the lettings process at various stages. They added that allegations suggesting there have been void properties since the 1990s is false.

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Councillor Jane Meagher, housing, homelessness and fair work convener, said: “The deputation at this morning’s committee highlighted an issue we’re already making efforts to address. We’re committed to tackling empty homes and we are treating this as an absolute priority, but it’s a huge undertaking and will take time. The number of void Council properties has increased since covid due to restrictions on work being carried out for such a long period of time. However I’m glad that, while the numbers are still high, we’re making progress on completing repairs on homes to bring them back into use.”

Cllr Meagher said ‘the reasons for homes being empty are varied and complex and they include homes that are being used as emergency accommodation’ adding some homes require ‘significant investment.’

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