Scottish Borders Council has appointed a dedicated Empty Homes Officer as part of plans to help owners bring long-term empty properties back into use and reduce the impact that neglected homes can have on communities.
Supported by the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership (SEHP), the officer will provide a range of services, advice and assistance tailored to the individual needs of each owner who engages with the service.
They will also lead on the development and implementation of an empty homes strategy that will aim to ensure that empty properties in the private sector are brought back into use wherever possible.
Figures from the Scottish Government show that an increase in empty homes is being experienced across Scotland, with 1,542 properties being listed as empty long-term in the Scottish Borders in 2020, with 61% of these properties being vacant for a year or longer.
SEHP has noted that the increase in numbers of empty homes across the country is part of the economic legacy of the pandemic and that the full impact of Covid-19 on long-term empty homes may not be known for some time.
Homes become empty through normal life events, such as a death, people moving away for work, marriage or divorce and they typically become empty for an extended period of time when people do not have the money, knowledge or motivation to know what to do next.
Scottish Borders Council said authorities that invest in a dedicated empty homes service and help to bring empty properties back into use can provide a vital income stream to businesses and the local economy.
As well as this, they said it will help to improve local communities and make more homes available for those who need them.
The Empty Homes Officer will initially be appointed on a two-year contract to enable the council to assess the value of both the dedicated empty homes staff, as well as sharing best practice to address empty homes issues.
Commenting, Scottish Borders Council’s Executive Member for Economic Regeneration and Finance, Councillor Mark Rowley said: “Empty homes have a negative impact on the local community and economy.
“They can lead to a reduction in property values and increases in anti-social behaviour and vandalism, all of which can result in increased levels of stress and anxiety for both property owners and neighbours, and a loss of community pride.
“By employing an Empty Homes Officer and increasing the help and support we can offer to people by bringing these properties back into use, we will help to reverse these negative effects, increase the supply of housing and support communities across the Scottish Borders.
“The evidence nationally is that Empty Homes Officers can make a huge difference in reviving homes through their expansive skills and knowledge in the process.
“We are looking forward to finding the right person for the position and witnessing the good work they will do for our communities.”