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Empty Homes

Rural Housing Guide

In some communities restrictions on planning or poor water + sewerage infrastructure can limit new development and mean that the renovation of empty property is the only option for the development of affordable housing. The renovation of empty property can also enhance and regenerate a community.

Some rural communities have successfully brought local empty property back into use:

  • at Strathmashie, near Laggan the community bought and renovated empty former forestry cottages which were for sale.
  • at Crianlarich the Strathfillan Community Development Trust bought and renovated empty British Rail cottages which were blighting the village.
  • the Knoydart Foundation used Rural Empty Property Grant from the Scottish Government to renovate derelict local property.

Repairing Leases (Sweat Equity)

Where owners are unable or unwilling to sell empty property, community organisations (which are registered as rural housing bodies)  may be able to lease the houses on a long term basis and secure grant and loan to renovate the properties. The Ulva School Community Association plan to do this with local empty properties.

It is also possible for individuals to contact a local estate about empty property with a view to agreeing a repairing lease to renovate the property. In return for no or very low rent the repairing tenant renovates the property often using their own labour to keep costs low. These opportunities are generally not advertised and it is worth contacting local estates about empty property to see if they will consider this approach - which after all benefits them as their property is improved. For a case study of this approach see download below.

Grants for Empty Property

The Scottish Government can provide a grant to help with the renovation of empty property called the Rural Empty Property Grant to help bring back empty property for affordable rent. Unfortunately this grant is currently (Summer 2011) not generally available.

Local authorities can also provide grant support to help renovate empty property - although East Lothian Council is currently the only council providing support. A full guide to financing the renovation of empty homes is available from the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership.

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