Empty homes strategy praised by charity

ARGYLL and Bute Council has been praised by a national charity for its efforts in bringing empty homes back into use to help address the need for affordable housing across Argyll and Bute.

The council agreed a series of measures last month, representing an investment of £18 million, to ensure that people have access to sufficient and suitable affordable homes in the area.

This includes a strategy which will focus on bringing back into use Argyll and Bute’s 581 empty houses.

Kristen Hubert from Shelter Scotland, which runs the Scottish Government-funded Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, which provides support for councils seeking to reduce the number of empty properties in their areas, said: “Argyll and Bute Council should be praised for its continuing commitment to bringing empty homes back into use.

“There are many reasons why an owner can get stuck with an empty home. Councils can help by providing advice and support to help them get past the issues standing in their way - from lack of information through to lack of finance or skills.

“Bringing empty homes back into use has many benefits – it adds to the housing supply, contributes to local regeneration and supports community safety.

“We look forward to working with the council in tackling the problem of empty homes across Argyll and Bute.”

The council has a target of ten homes per year coming back into use, using a three-pronged approach.

Refurbishment grants of up to £20,000 could be provided to owners providing they agree to lease the improved property to a registered social landlord (RSL) for at least ten years.

Alternatively, loans could be made available to owners to upgrade properties, again up to £20,000 and with the condition that the home is made available to an RSL for a minimum of five years.

The council will also appoint a dedicated empty homes officer to handle some of the complex issues surrounding bringing empty homes back into use, and to provide the detailed and specialised information that this complex but necessary task requires.

George Freeman, the authority’s lead councillor for housing and a long-term and enthusiastic campaigner for the provision of affordable homes, said: “This is one of a package of proposals that Argyll and Bute Council has agreed in order to address the housing needs of people in the area.

“Increased access to housing helps to regenerate our communities and the local economy.

“There are almost six empty homes in Argyll and Bute and any measure which helps to reduce this figure and, more importantly, increase the availability of affordable housing, is to be welcomed.”