New council post to be created to reduce the number of empty properties in the Borders

Decision-making Scottish Borders councillors today, Tuesday, April 20, rubber-stamped an outlay of £40,000 to tackle the blight of empty properties in the region.

Tuesday, 20th April 2021, 1:18 pm
Scott Hamilton outside the scaffold-surrounded empty building in the square in Jedburgh. (BILL McBURNIE)

Empty homes can result in a significant negative impact on both the community and the council, including a reduction in property values, anti-social behaviour, vandalism, increased levels of stress and a lack of community pride.

The most common hurdle for the owners of empty homes is the cost of bringing them into use, ranging typically from £6,000 to £25,000.

The most up-to-date data for 2019/20 shows that there are 1,543 properties in the Borders registered as long term empty (LTE).

That level of LTE homes is significantly higher than the national average, with 2.8 per cent of housing stock vacant compared to 1.8 per cent nationwide.

It was in the light of those statistics that members of the council’s executive committee today agreed to rubber-stamp a recommendation to allocate £40,000 towards the £80,000 needed to fund a full-time empty homes officer for a period of 24 months.

The successful applicant will be tasked with taking action to help improve the current situation.

Councillor Mark Rowley said: “I think this is incredibly important. I was embarrassed that we were one of the few councils that did not have a post in position. When you look at the figure of 1,500 homes across the Borders long-term empty that absolutely has to change. This is a key part of town centre regeneration when you think of all those properties at first and second floor level above shops.”

Councillor Euan Jardine also welcomed the introduction of the post, saying: “Bringing empty homes back into use is not only a sustainable way of increasing the local supply of housing but also reduces the negative impact neglected empty homes can have on communities and for me that’s vitally important.

"In Gala for example if you go up Hall Street or go up Kirbrae there are all these deserted flats.”

Councillor Scott Hamilton added: “I think someone hit the nail on the head when they said this was an uphill struggle and as an elected member in Jedburgh with scaffolding in the town centre I can see the benefits of this going forward. I think we need to have a look at how this has worked in other parts of the country to see how it could operate in the Borders.”