The news that almost 5,000 privately owned properties are lying empty in Edinburgh raises many questions about how the city can meet the future demand for good quality housing.
I live in Buckstone in suburban Edinburgh and here we have seen repeated attempts by developers to chip away at the Greenbelt in the Winton area. Despite the fact that the area the developers are keen to build on delivers benefits which range from enhancing biodiversity to supporting wellbeing, their argument is that development is needed if Edinburgh’s housing needs are to be met.
For some time the argument has been made at city level that housebuilding should focus on the redevelopment of “brown field” land. Surely we must now also prioritise bringing empty homes back into use before we destroy more green space like that under threat in Winton?
If the council, which has been subject to cuts by the Scottish Government, can’t afford to encourage the owners of empty properties to act, perhaps this could be done in partnership with developers?
Where there is evidence that investors are holding properties empty for longer term financial gain, I really to hope that their council tax is being surcharged to reflect the impact empty properties have on communities.