City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Action Urged on Edinburgh's 10,000 "Empties"

By edg - Posted on 21 January 2011

Edinburgh Castle and Old Town from Holyrood Park

Is it in spite of, or is because Edinburgh has the most expensive property in Scotland, with high demand for homes and accommodation, that over 10,000 private houses remain empty and unused for most of the year?

Local Green Party councillor Alison Johnstone, highlighted the problem of "empties" in a recent blog post.

"The City Council needs to get its act together on empty homes," writes Johnstone, who is a Green MSP candidate in the upcoming May Election

"The last Post Census Vacant Dwellings Survey showed that Edinburgh had more private sector empties than anywhere else in Scotland, while, according to the Council Tax database, almost 600 private sector homes have been empty for more than a year. And that is in a city where 25,000 people are on the housing list and 4,600 were accepted as homeless last year."

As a result of a motion by Green councillor Steve Burgess in October 2007, empty homes in Edinburgh are monitored and reported back to the Council's Health, Social Care and Housing Committee each year.

The City Council's annual Empty Homes in Edinburgh Report in March 2010, said that more than 859 homes had been vacant for more than six months (and 583 of those were vacant for over a year). The General Register Office for Scotland figure of 10,040 empty homes (vacant and second homes) covers a different time frame, which may explain the difference in totals.

Of course, some of those "empties" - 4.4% of all Edinburgh dwellings - may be changing owners or in the process of renovation. But many wont be. The Council report suggests that many owners have been waiting for the property market to improve before selling up.

Johnstone argues that Edinburgh should join other councils in signing up to the Shelter and the Empty Homes Agency web site where people can report empty homes. The idea is that a council can then act on the reports to ensure a home does not lie empty and derelict for years. If the project gets more homes back in use what's there to dislike about it?

Figures from September 2009 from the General Register Office for Scotland Edinburgh, put the number of vacant dwellings in Edinburgh at 1040 when you include second homes

Table: Occupied and vacant dwellings in each local authority area, September 2009 (GROS)

  Total dwellings
Vacant Second homes
Total "empties"
City of Edinburgh
231,903 5,484 4,556 10,040
Scotland 2,476,157 70,819 35,420 106,239