Empty Homes

– in the Scottish Parliament on 26th June 2019.

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Photo of Alison Johnstone Alison Johnstone Green

2. To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to reduce the number of empty homes. (S5O-03432)

Photo of Kevin Stewart Kevin Stewart Scottish National Party

Long-term empty homes are a wasted resource at a time when we need more homes across Scotland. We will therefore continue to fund the work of the Scottish empty homes partnership with more than £1.2 million across three years to provide advice and support. Last year, the partnership brought 1,128 homes back into use, which was a rise of more than 300, thanks to the work of dedicated empty homes officers. It is essential that all local authorities see and adopt the benefits of that approach.

More can be done. We are reviewing our empty homes policy to maximise the number of homes that are brought back into use. In that review, I will carefully consider the Local Government and Communities Committee’s inquiry into empty homes.

Photo of Alison Johnstone Alison Johnstone Green

Since 2010, only 4,340 homes have been brought back into use. At the current rate of progress, we will have to wait 173 years until all the empty homes in Scotland are in use. Local authorities have a role, but surely the minister must recognise that national leadership is key, that legislation might be required and that current funding may be insufficient to address the fact that more than 83,000 homes in Scotland lie empty and unused while we have a homelessness crisis.

Photo of Kevin Stewart Kevin Stewart Scottish National Party

As I said in my initial answer, 1,128 homes were brought back into use last year thanks to the successful partnership that the Government has with Shelter Scotland and local authorities. I pay tribute to Shaheena Din, who has been at the forefront in dealing with the issue. My disappointment lies with local authorities that have yet to bring empty homes officers into play. In Ms Johnstone’s region, Lothian, we have seen little progress being made by councils. The councils that have made the investment in empty homes officers, from Dumfries and Galloway to Orkney, are seeing huge benefits from their work. I appeal to all local authorities to put in place empty homes officers.

In terms of national versus local responsibility—

Photo of Kevin Stewart Kevin Stewart Scottish National Party

We will look at national versus local responsibility during the review, and I will continue to keep the Parliament updated.