Edinburgh homes: Council vow to slash number of empty homes by 60 per cent by October 2024 amid housing crisis
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The news comes just one week after the council declared a housing emergency in Edinburgh where there are roughly 200 bids for each socially-rented home and approximately 23,000 tenants currently on waiting lists in the city.
Tenants’ union, Living Rent, has campaigned for void council properties to be reinstated for months, securing talks with the service director for housing and homelessness, Derek McGowan after making a deputation to the housing, homelessness and fair work committee meeting in August 2023.
Living Rent spokesperson, Zoe Green, said: “It is unacceptable that the amount of council homes lying empty has been increasing when Edinburgh desperately needs more affordable housing. Building more homes is essential to address this crisis, but bringing empty homes back into use is a way to provide affordable housing to some of those in need of it quickly.
Ms Green added: “Many of these homes are empty because repairs are not being carried out within a reasonable timeframe, and the council was not doing enough to address this. The council’s commitment to turn this around and make almost all of the city’s voids into homes by the end of next year is great news and will help bring waiting list numbers down somewhat.”
Of the 1,416 empty council properties, 235 are considered ready to let, with 804 currently empty pending essential maintenance. Another 244 council homes are deemed ‘unable to be let.’ An October 2023 council report cited various reasons for why properties are lying empty. Among those were ‘decants, properties identified for demolition or disposal, new builds not ready for let, properties earmarked for temporary accommodation or as a special let, properties used for the whole house retrofit project, and properties unable to be accessed due to legal or Police Scotland proceedings’.
Following a Freedom of Information request, Living Rent say they were appalled to discover average waiting times for Edinburgh council homes adding the data demonstrates ‘demonstrate the dire state of social housing in this country.’ Council figures shared with Living Rent reveal the average waiting time for a one-bedroom property is 1,144 days, with waiting times for two and three bedrooms being 897 days and 1,156 days respectively. The figures also revealed that the waiting time for a one-bedroom council home in Edinburgh has nearly doubled in the last decade.
Councillor Jane Meagher, housing, homelessness and fair work convener, said: “Tackling empty homes is a major priority for us and we’re starting to see a real return on our housing officers’ efforts. At least 117 homes have been brought back into use in the last month alone.
“As we declared last week, Edinburgh is in the grip of a housing emergency and we need to make every effort possible to address this as a city. Void homes are, in many cases, completely uninhabitable without significant investment and specialist renovation. So, while these renovations can take time, I’m very keen to make sure we keep momentum going.”
Councillor Meagher added: “We must transform these properties to create safe, warm and affordable homes for people to live in. That’s why an ambitious target has been set.”