Housing in Aberdeen worth nearly £500 million has been lying empty for years, shocking new figures have revealed.
Research by the insurance firm Admiral uncovered statistics showing the Granite City has the highest rate of unoccupied homes in Scotland, with almost 3,000 houses classed as long-term vacant.
Aberdeen tops the rankings for the number of properties which have been empty for between two and five years, with 2,037, and between five and nine years with 813 – far more than Scotland’s other major cities.
It means 42 out of every 1,000 homes in the city have been derelict for two years or more.
It is understood the vast majority of affected homes are privately-owned, limiting what can be done to combat the issue by organisations such as Aberdeen City Council.
Those tasked with tackling the issue believe it is, at least in part, a legacy of the oil price crash of 2014, which resulted in a drop in demand for property in the city.
For comparison the total value of the long-term vacant housing stock in the city is £456 million, while in Edinburgh – which is second on the list – the total is less than £380m.
Schemes to get homes occupied
Efforts are under way to tackle the problem, and Aberdeen City Council is working with charities including Shelter Scotland and Aberdeen Cyrenians to help owners find tenants for vacant properties.
Schemes to get the homes occupied include the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, which is led by Shelter, and Cyrenians’ Settled: Homes for All campaign.
Shaheena Din, national project manager for the Empty Homes Partnership, said: “We know economic difficulties often result in an increase in the number of empty homes at a local level and that the longer a property stays empty, the harder it becomes to return it to use.
“We have worked closely with Aberdeen City Council on their Empty Homes approach, their team won the award for Best Empty Homes Partnership at our annual conference last year for bringing more than 130 empty properties back to use.
“Their work with third sector partners in the city was lauded, as well as their innovative matchmaker scheme which aims to match owners of empty properties with tenants or buyers.
“We are also working with government to explore if there are additional powers such as compulsory sale orders and compulsory rental orders which might help councils do more to tackle the problem of empty homes in the future.”
‘Significant turmoil’ for housing sector
Homes in the city which have lain empty for between two and five years account for almost £326m, while those vacant for between five and nine years are worth more than £130m.
Meanwhile, housing with a total value of nearly £29m has been empty for a decade or more.
Ryan Houghton, Aberdeen City Council’s city growth and resources convener, said the authority would continue to support landlords as well as pressing ahead with its own social housing programme.
“The private housing sector has seen significant turmoil in the last six years, with both the oil crash and Covid-19 taking its toll,” he said.
“It’s commendable that organisations such as Shelter and Aberdeen Cyrenians are finding innovative ways to support and encourage landlords to work with them to find ways to get their vacant homes back into use.
“The council will continue to endeavour with its Empty Homes outreach work to find ways to make empty properties, homes for those who need them.
“It is however imperative that we continue to deliver new high quality homes for tenants looking to stay in the social housing sector which we will continue to do at pace.”