Hundreds of empty Glasgow homes brought back into use - but thousands remain empty

Hundreds of empty Glasgow homes have been brought back into use by the council in the last few years - but thousands remain empty.

Glasgow currently has 2659 homes listed as being empty for six months or more (not including second homes).

Empty homes are not only a wasted resource that could be used to address local housing needs but can also become a blight on the community by becoming eyesores and attracting vandalism.

The economic advantage to bringing an empty home back to productive use is clear: it costs between £6000 - £25,000 to renovate an empty property compared to an estimated cost of £120,000 to build a new home.

The cost of cleaning Glasgow streets is the highest in Scotland.

There are a number of reasons for homes becoming empty - mortgage default and repossessions; deceased or untraceable owners; property title issues; and properties which have fallen into a state of disrepair.

Brought back into use

Since 2019, 607 homes have been brought back into productive use through council’s Empty Homes Officers (EHO) working with owners, following the target of 200-250 homes per year.

The council works alongside the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, owners and other interested parties to achieve this.

Actions to bring back these homes into use falls under three broad categories: selling the property, renting or on occupation.

Those who wish to report empty homes can do so by emailing [email protected] or phoning 0141 287 0405 / 1373 / 7994 and this will allow the Empty Homes team to offer advice, guidance and support to enable owners to make an informed decision regarding their empty home.

Punishments for empty homes

Under the Housing (Scotland) Act 2010, local authorities can now use Council Tax records to identify vacant homes and bring them back into use, and a surcharge of up to 100 per cent of Council Tax can be charged to owners of empty homes which are not being marketed for sale or rent.

Glasgow is the only Scottish local authority which alerts home-owners prior to this application of the premium charge.

CPOs

Where there are instances where an owner cannot be traced or refuses to engage with the EHO, the council will consider the use of compulsory purchase order (CPO) powers. CPO powers are considered when all other options have been exhausted, the use of CPO is to improve the condition of the housing stock and bring empty properties back into use working with registered social landlords to provide assistance through the acquisition strategy. Any homes that have compulsory purchased will be brought back into use for social rent.

Since 2019 committee authorisation has been sought to promote a total of 52 CPOs for properties across Glasgow, with a total of 37 CPOs now been progressed or confirmed.

With the remaining 15 properties, 13 have been acquired by the respective housing associations on a voluntary basis and the remaining two properties have either been sold or occupied by family members, negating the need to proceed with the CPO.

Tinder for homes

Another service the EHO offer is a matchmaker scheme, aiming to match empty property home-owners who are trying to sell or who are thinking about selling with people who want to buy an empty property.

When the EHO identifies a 'match' between an empty home for sale and a buyer's requirements, the empty homeowner and the buyer will receive each other’s details to follow-up and hopefully start negotiations.

‘Regeneration of communities’

Councillor Kenny McLean, city convener for neighbourhoods, housing and public realm at Glasgow City Council, said: “Our Empty Homes Strategy not only brings economic and environmental benefits to Glasgow, but also contributes to the regeneration of communities across the city. The officers in the Empty Homes team provide a range of services to homeowners and those looking to bring empty homes back into use in Glasgow.”

Bailie Christy Means, vice-convener of the neighbourhoods, housing and public realm committee, added: “I’m thrilled that Glasgow City Council has now recruited a third Empty Homes Officer since the budget was agreed last year.

“This will allow us to build on the positive work that has been done in Glasgow to bring more empty homes back into productive use, to provide much-needed housing, to tackle poor property condition and to address the Climate Emergency. With demand for housing growing, rents increasing year on year, and housing waiting lists continuing to rise, it’s imperative that we make the most of the homes that already exist.

“This will benefit our communities and, given the smaller carbon cost of refurbishing an existing home compared to building a new one, it will benefit the environment too.”