Graham Simpson calls for a dedicated empty homes officer in South Lanarkshire

Graham Simpson MSP is calling on South Lanarkshire Council to appoint a dedicated empty homes officer.

It follows a session in the Scottish Parliament in which he quizzed South Lanarkshire housing officer Maureen Flynn about their strategy to bring empty homes back into use.

The council is one of just a handful in Scotland not to have an empty homes officer and Mr Simpson believes employing one would make the authority more effective.

Figures show the number of empty properties increasing across Scotland and South Lanarkshire. National Records of Scotland “Estimates of Households and Dwelling”, published 22 May 2018, revealed that the number of empty properties in South Lanarkshire has increased - from 2,656 in 2007 to 3,243 in 2017. This is a 22 per cent increase.

The figures also revealed that long-term empty properties (empty for 6 months or more) in South Lanarkshire has increased 963 in 2007 to 1,174 in 2018 – a 22 per cent increase.

He said: “The Local Government and Communities Committee is looking at this issue. At a previous session we heard from people in South Lanarkshire who were trying to do up empty homes but were being financially hampered because the council has hit them with double council tax.

“Other councils are showing flexibility over this and allowing people renovating homes some leeway. That’s not happening in South Lanarkshire and, perversely, this means empty homes staying empty for longer.

“I also asked if the council targets houses that have been empty for a long time. I got some waffle back but the truth is they don’t. I mentioned a house in Mossneuk that has been empty for at least 10 years and is a blight on the area in my view. Something needs to be done about it and an empty homes officer could help.”

“We must see more innovative action to tackle this rise in empty properties, help solve the housing crisis and enable more people to realise their dream of having a home.”