Housing (Empty Properties)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 14 March 2024.

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Photo of Miles Briggs Miles Briggs Conservative

2. To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to bring empty properties back into use for housing. (S6O-03199)

Photo of Paul McLennan Paul McLennan Scottish National Party

We continue to tackle empty homes as a priority, bringing more homes back into use as warm, safe and secure housing. Our interventions have been recognised by an independent audit that endorses the £3.2 million investment in the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, which has seen over 9,000 privately owned homes successfully returned to use. That is why I was pleased to announce yesterday a further £423,000 of funding to support that important work in 2024-25.

Mr Briggs will be aware that I wrote to Parliament in September to outline the further actions that we are taking to enhance our approach. Those actions reflect the wide range of complex circumstances that have to be addressed.

Photo of Miles Briggs Miles Briggs Conservative

I agree that we need a real call to action to bring the estimated 43,000 empty homes in Scotland back into use. Shelter has done some welcome work in England to support councils to bring homes back. Here in Edinburgh, in my area, there are 3,000 council-owned empty properties. What work will the Scottish Government do to help councils to fund projects to bring properties back? Has the Scottish Government looked at an empty homes refurbishment fund, for example, to enable councils to bid for money to do that?

Photo of Paul McLennan Paul McLennan Scottish National Party

The member mentioned the Edinburgh situation. When I met the City of Edinburgh Council last week, we talked about what we can do about the number of voids, which are empty homes. We have asked the council for proposals on that and we will see how we can work with it.

I mentioned the further £423,000 of funding to support important work in 2024-25. I am happy to continue to discuss the matter with the member.

Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party

In much of rural and island Scotland, derelict and empty properties litter the landscape. Does the minister agree that bringing such properties back into habitation is both vital to reinvigorate communities and, in most instances, considerably less expensive than new-build housing? What progress has been made over the past year and will be made in the next year to deliver on that objective?

Photo of Paul McLennan Paul McLennan Scottish National Party

I have been engaging closely with local authorities, housing providers and businesses in rural areas to support the delivery of more affordable homes across rural and island areas, and to consider how we can make best use of our existing supply. Our “Rural & Islands Housing Action Plan” supports the delivery of the Scottish Government’s commitment to deliver 110,000 affordable homes, of which 10 per cent will be in rural and island areas.

The plan recognises that, alongside the delivery of new homes for rural and island communities, existing homes are a key part of our approach, including bringing empty homes back into active use.