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Highland Council appoints an empty homes officer to help tackle lack of housing

By Scott Maclennan

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Many properties fall out of use after years of neglect and are expensive to repair.
Many properties fall out of use after years of neglect and are expensive to repair.

Highland Council has been continuing its bid to tackle the region’s housing crisis by appointing a full-time empty homes officer for a two-year period.

With funding support from the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, Jonathan Henderson will work to bring privately-owned empty homes across the Highlands back into use.

The council recognises both that there are many reasons why properties become empty long-term and the positive contribution made towards housing supply.

Mr Henderson will work to help owners make their properties usable again by providing advice and assistance to people who are struggling to deal with a vacant home.

This will include engaging with owners to understand why a property is empty and offering practical solutions and advice to turn it into a home again.

Talking about his new role he said: “I am looking forward to contributing to Highland Council’s efforts to continue improving housing access for all.

“We know that the private sector, including the owners of empty homes, can play a significant part in the provision of housing options so my role will be to work in partnership with communities and owners right across the Highlands to make that contribution.

“I am going to find it very rewarding to work with owners to bring empty properties back into use and to provide homes for people who need them.”

Shaheena Din, National Project Manager for Scottish Empty Homes Partnership said: “We are delighted the Highland Council has decided to appoint an Empty Homes Officer who will work to bring empty properties back into use so they can become someone’s home.

“In the last year alone, empty homes officers helped bring 851 homes back into use but with over 47,000 such properties across the country there is so much more that needs to be done.

“Evidence gathered by the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership from across Scotland shows the positive impact of having a specialist member of staff dedicated to supporting owners and neighbours in tackling empty homes and developing an empty homes strategy can have.

“I am looking forward to what Jonathan will be able to achieve in the Highlands and the contribution that will make across the country.”

The vice chairman of Highland Council’s Housing and Property Committee, Cllr Laurie Fraser, added: “It doesn’t make financial sense to allow properties to remain empty and deteriorate.

“The costs of empty homes to the local economy impact on both the community and the council. Community impacts include reduction in property values, anti-social behaviour, vandalism, increased levels of stress and anxiety and a loss of community pride.

“By bringing empty properties back into use we can help to reverse these negative effects and increase the supply of much needed housing in our communities.”

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