Nominations are being sought across Scotland to find the country’s 2016 empty homes champions.

The Howdens Scottish Empty Homes Champion of the Year Awards showcases the exemplary work of groups or individuals across Scotland to bring empty properties back into use.

The importance of empty homes work was highlighted in a report earlier this year by the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership (SEHP) which showed that 75 per cent of adults in Scotland think empty homes directly cause anti-social behaviour such as graffiti, vandalism, fly-tipping and break-ins.

The survey also showed that a majority (54 per cent) of Scottish adults felt those living near empty homes had a decreased sense of security and around a half (49 per cent) think that empty homes lower the value of local properties.

The SEHP, which coordinates most of Scotland’s empty homes work, says it is important to celebrate the progress made in the last 5 years – more than 1800 private empty homes have been brought back into use – to help raise awareness of the various initiatives available to tackle empty homes.  SEHP is searching for entries from the private, public and third sectors.

The closing date for applications is midnight on October 3. Winners will be announced at the 6th Annual Scottish Empty Homes Conference being held at the MacDonald Holyrood Hotel, Edinburgh, on November 15.

Housing minister Kevin Stewart is giving the keynote speech and handing out the prizes.

There are 34,000 long-term private empty homes in Scotland, many of which blight their local area causing safety concerns for communities. The awards are a celebration of the best projects and rising stars across Scotland for their achievements in bringing empty homes back into use.

All local authorities, elected members, community groups and individuals who work with empty homes can apply for the coveted Empty Homes Champion of the Year Award for Outstanding Project or Service, and Empty Homes Champion of the Year Award for Outstanding Individual.

Nominations are also wanted for Best Use of the Media and Best Before and After Photo awards.

This year’s conference will feature presentations from key note speakers and focused workshops and will be attended by empty homes practitioners, senior council housing officers, elected members, and others with an interest in private sector empty homes work.

The Scottish Empty Homes Partnership is run by Shelter Scotland and funded by the Scottish Government.

Graeme Brown, director for Shelter Scotland, said: “This year’s conference will again showcase the innovative empty homes work happening across Scotland which really makes a difference to communities suffering with empty properties.

“Our survey earlier this year showed just how concerned three-quarters of people in Scotland are about empty homes in their communities causing anti-social behaviour.  No-one likes to see empty properties being vandalised with graffiti all over them or with fly-tipping taking place.

“There are still thousands of empty homes in Scotland and bringing them back to good use can provide local affordable housing and help regenerate local communities.  It won’t solve the housing crisis on its own, but along with the social and economic benefits, it can play a part in tackling Scotland’s chronic shortage of affordable homes.”

Philip Hanson, assistant depot manager for Howdens Joinery, which is sponsoring the Scottish Empty Homes Champion of the Year Awards, said: “Howdens Joinery are proud to be supporting the Empty Homes Partnership and Shelter Scotland for the second year running. These organisations have been hugely successful in bringing much needed housing stock back into use across Scotland.

“The Howdens Scottish Empty Homes Champion of the Year Awards provide a fantastic opportunity to recognise the continued hard work and dedication given by individuals and associations across Scotland and an opportunity to celebrate these achievements. Howdens Joinery looks forward to reviewing your nominations and continuing to support this amazing project in the future.”

The nominations window for individuals, projects and colleagues is now open and will close on 3rd October 2016. People can apply by email to emptyhomes@shelter.org.uk.

There is still time to book your place at the conference. The delegate rate is £99.00 and an early bird rate is available until Friday September 16.

Source: Scottish Housing News

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