Shelter’s praise for empty homes initiative

An attempt to bring empty homes back into use and address the need for affordable housing across Argyll and Bute has been praised by national charity Shelter Scotland.

Argyll and Bute Council agreed an £18m series of measures last month – including a strategy which will focus on bringing back into use the 581 empty houses across the area.

The council has a target of ten homes per year coming back into use, using a three-pronged approach. offering refurbishment grants of up to £20,000 provided owners agree to lease the 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 an official to handle some of the issues surrounding bringing empty homes back into use and to provide detailed and specialised information.

Shelter 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.

The charity’s Kristen Hubert 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.”

Lead councillor for housing, George Freeman, 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 600 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.”