New Approach to Tackle Problem of Empty Homes Across the Region

Proposals to create a new multi-agency group to tackle the problem of empty homes across the region will go in front of Dumfries and Galloway councillors next week. Members of the Communities committee will be asked to give the seal of approval to the plans to establish the new partnership who will tackle the issues in bringing empty homes back into use.

The new partnership will include officers from Environmental Health, Legal Services, Shelter Scotland and Registered Social Landlords as well as others.
The creation of the new group is one of a series of proposals going in front of councillors when they discuss the Town Centre Living Fund.

The fund was a key part of the Administration’s budget agreed last week (28 February) and will see investment being made to bring empty and derelict properties back into use for housing to help regenerate town centres.

The investment will be funded using the income the council receives from council tax on second homes to increase the supply of affordable housing in town centres and settlements in order to bring these empty properties back into use.

This second year of the fund will employ new criteria, focussing on developing town centre sites, providing Empty Homes Grants and Below Tolerable Standards Grants. At the meeting on Tuesday 3 April, Councillors will be provided with details on town centres and their boundaries for any applications, below tolerable standards criteria and how the town centre living fund will be promoted.

As part of the proposals, Councillors will be asked to approve £250k from the Town Centre Living Fund to tackle the problem of Empty Homes across the region. This will be used to provide grants (subject to the standard grant conditions) to private landlords and to private owners to address their empty homes and who intend to occupy the property thereafter.
The Scottish Government believe that bringing empty homes back into used can make a contribution to the national target of delivering 50,000 homes for Scotland by 2021.

Chair of the Communities committee, Councillor Andy Fergusson, said “This new partnership approach to tackle the practical barriers that often stand in the way of bringing homes back into use is exactly what is needed. This group can bring the range of issues that require to be addressed into focus. By encouraging the refurbishment of empty properties and providing homes for our communities we will support the on-going work aimed at improving the sustainability and vibrancy of our town centres. Town centres across Scotland are changing as a result of online shopping and the preference for many businesses to develop out of town centres, we need to find new ways to bring people into our towns. One way is to provide more housing and that is exactly what this fund is aimed at doing”.
Vice Chair of the committee, Councillor John Martin, said “Our Council is ambitious about the local economy and we aspire to regenerate our town centres and settlements. By bringing empty properties back into use and encouraging people to live in these locations, we can improve their sustainability and vibrancy.
“This fund aims to enable projects that will provide affordable housing while also contributing to town centre regeneration and supporting the empowerment of local communities, giving people a stronger voice on the issues that matter to them.”

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