Dundee City Council is being urged to do more to bring hundreds of long-term empty homes in the city back into use.
The Scottish Empty Homes Partnership says if the council looks to deal with the city’s 1,209 long-term empty homes, it could address the local housing crisis.
This comes after the council recently announced a £6 million housing expenditure programme to tackle the 7,700-person waiting list for housing, along with 600 people who are registered as homeless.
Tackling empty homes could be “critical” to dealing with Dundee’s housing crisis
The average cost of bringing a long-term empty home back into use is £9,000 and the extensive renovation works needed can take just six months.
This compared to a minimum of £125,000 and 12-18 months to build a brand new property from scratch.
Shaheena Din, national project manager for Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, said: “Bringing empty homes back to life could form a critical part of the solution to Dundee’s housing crisis.
“Building new homes will be central to Dundee’s housing strategy, but diverting even a portion of the housing fund towards the city’s empty homes would be a cost-effective and fast-acting partial solution.”
“We are trying to deal with it as best we can”, says councillor
Councillor Anne Rendall, convener of neighbourhood services at Dundee City Council, said: “There are not that many empty homes in Dundee and it is not a huge issue here.
“But we do try and get it sorted as quickly as we can.
“I do get constituents phoning me to say the house along the road from them has been empty for months, and I pass that information onto the right team.
“But finding out how long it has been empty for and who the landlord is can take a long time.
“Sometimes there is an absentee landlord or they live abroad.
“Other times there has been a death in the family and getting the estate sorted out takes a long time.
“We are trying to deal with it as best we can, but we can’t promise it would be as quick as people would like.
“But this is something that is on our radar and when it is brought to our attention we do look into it.
“If members of the public see an empty home they can report it to their councillor who can pass it onto the correct team, but it is not a quick thing to do and it can sometimes take years to get a hold of people.”
Call for council to hire dedicated empty homes officer
The Scottish Empty Homes Partnership has also called on Dundee City Council to hire a dedicated empty homes officer to help tackle the issue.
Dundee City Council did previously employ a dedicated officer on a part-time basis, but the post has not been filled since 2018.
Ms Din added: “Dundee City Council has seen significant decreases in the overall number of empty homes which could become the focus of antisocial behaviour and neglect.
“These clusters of empty homes demonstrate the need for Dundee City Council to reinstate an empty homes officer who can take a proactive approach to bringing these homes back into use.”
Currently 21 Scottish local authorities have an empty homes officer who works with homeowners to renovate empty properties and bring them back into use.
Councillor Rendall said it was “not possible” to hire such a person during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
She said: “We did have a person in post but they were offered a full time post in Angus in 2018.
“The council fully intended to recruit someone new but by the time we got round to it the pandemic had hit and we were not able to continue with that in the current circumstances.”
A spokesman for Dundee City Council added: “We work with owners of private property and landlords to try and prevent properties from becoming empty homes.
“We offer support and investment through grants for issues like security and serious disrepair.
“Where practical we will take steps to engage with specific owners where complaints are received about empty homes.
“The council is currently reviewing options on how to take our work on empty homes forward.”