Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Public help bring empty homes back into service

March 09 2011
Almost 100 reports after call for action

A website that encourages people to spot potential homes that are lying empty - and then put pressure on their local council to take action - has sparked almost 100 reports to local authorities around Scotland.

The site, part of the Empty Homes Initiative Scotland, was launched late last November and allows the public an easy and effective way of bringing a disused house to the attention of the council.

Co-ordinators of the system, Shelter Scotland, are then able to work with councils to help them get vacant homes back into use. And that's good news for homeless people in desperate need of suitable accommodation.

The figure comes just weeks after a Freedom of Information request by the Scottish Liberal Democrats revealed that there are over 70,000 homes across Scotland lying empty.

The revelation, which Lib Dems said was "astonishing", led to calls for action. The Scottish Government has insisted it is prioritising getting empty homes back into circulation as one way of making more affordable social housing available.

Kristen Miller, of Shelter's Empty Homes Initiative, admitted there was still a long way to go. But she said: "We have ambitious hopes for the project and are encouraged by the number of reports so far."

"In certain areas - particularly those in cities - getting empty homes back into use has the potential to make a difference. Councils can learn a lot from similar schemes, which have worked successfully in England."

Miller is currently aiming to get three 'pilot properties' in West Dunbartonshire, West Lothian and East Ayrshire back into use, working intensively with councils to provide the support and advice they need. This includes helping local authorities to overcome the barriers such as establishing ownership of the property and tracking that owner down.

According to a 2009 Scottish Government report, councils had stopped treating the issue of abandoned homes seriously, and activity to address the problem had declined dramatically in recent years.

It made a series of recommendations, including partnership working to address the problem. A spokesman said that it sees the Empty Homes Initiative as key to this.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said they saw the Empty Homes Initiative as an important way to address the issue and engage with councils.