Cllr Kenny Mclean: Collaboration can help solve the problem of empty homes



On behalf of the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, Cllr Kenny Mclean highlights the partners working to tackle empty homes in Glasgow and the benefits the work is bringing throughout the city

It is encouraging to see growing awareness of Scotland’s 47,000 long-term empty homes and the national commitment to tackle these.

Empty homes that are brought back into use can contribute to housing supply by providing much needed accommodation for people in need. These homes can help to reduce pressures on homelessness services and can benefit local communities. Living nearby empty homes can impact on residents’ security, lead to an increase in anti-social behaviour and cause environmental blight, so whole neighbourhoods benefit from tackling empty homes.

Glasgow City Council is committed to addressing the issue head-on. Our Empty Homes Officers, who are part of the Scotland-wide network hosted by the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, work with empty home owners and offer tailored advice and support to encourage them to bring their properties back into productive use.

In 2019, we developed an ambitious Empty Homes Strategy, which involved a fully-integrated and cross-council approach to tackling empty homes. Many of our aims are linked to high-level objectives such as protecting built heritage, the delivery of key housing strategies and carbon reduction. In the first 10 months of implementing this, the team brought an impressive 305 empty homes back into use.

This has helped to increase the availability of housing stock to meet demand, while providing good quality accommodation for those who need it. A key part of this has been to identify opportunities for suitable housing for groups such as larger families, people that are at risk of homelessness and those with a variety of support needs. Often this work has involved partnerships with housing associations and charities, and we are proud to have supported individuals and families in need of good quality and affordable accommodation.

We look to offer home-owners practical options and solutions that work to help bring properties back into use. This includes offering owners, access to VAT or local merchant discounts, signposting to other local services or signing up to our matchmaker scheme.

Tackling environmental blight and improving the amenity of neighbourhoods is one of the most challenging aspects of the strategy, but we are proud of our achievements to date, having helped to transform targeted areas in Glasgow. These are areas where we work with housing association partners to acquire empty properties in tenement buildings to facilitate common repairs and improve the streetscapes aesthetically, impacting positively on local communities and providing a boost to the local economy.

Empty homes have an increasingly important role to play in the delivery of our wider housing strategy. Many housing issues are interconnected and programmes of work can only be carried out with the proactive input of our empty homes team and the value of addressing empty homes should not be underestimated.

Our empty homes team works with a range of colleagues in various council departments such as housing, financial services, environmental health, sustainable communities, planning and building standards.

Whenever a strategic priority area is identified within the city, an integrated team is formed to find the best approach to improve a street or neighbourhood and determine where empty properties are located, what action requires to be taken and establish an end use.

By taking a strategic and holistic approach, our teams are able to work efficiently and share intelligence to generate better outcomes.

Challenges remain and the pandemic has made it difficult to maintain the momentum of our work, but we remain focused on the task and determined to tackle the problem of empty properties, to deliver benefits in terms of increased housing supply, improving communities and neighbourhoods and help bolster local economies.

  • Cllr Kenny Mclean is city convener for neighbourhoods, housing and public realm at Glasgow City Council

This article was originally published by The Scotsman



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