Perth and Kinross Council is leading the way among local authorities in Scotland in bringing empty residential properties back into use.
The annual report by the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership (SEHP), which is funded by the Scottish Government and backed by homelessness charity Shelter Scotland, revealed that almost 700 private empty properties were brought back into use in the last year, nearly 150 of which were in Perth and Kinross.
The report said the value of the properties across Scotland was more than £110 million, but more work still needs to be done to address the problem of long-term empty homes.
The scale of the problem is considerable – there are currently around 34,000 long-term private empty homes across Scotland while 150,000 families and individuals are on the main waiting list for a home. Last year, over 36,000 homelessness applications were made by households in Scotland.
The approach to the issue in Perth and Kinross is bearing dividends, according to the council.
“Perth and Kinross Council is committed to working in partnership with the private sector,” said a spokesman.
“This is a major part of regenerating Perth city centre for the 21st century and is essential to delivering on the ambitions for Perth set out in the city plan.
“This public and private sector alliance is very positive in the housing sector by significantly increasing the supply of affordable housing to meet the housing needs of many households in Perth and Kinross.
“Perth and Kinross is one of the most active local authorities in Scotland in terms of bringing empty properties back into use, as we are one of the very few to give grants and interest free loans to owners of empty properties.
“Overall the proportion of long-term empty residential properties in Perth and Kinross is in line with other similar areas at 1.5%, with just 67 of these in Perth city centre.
“The success of our approach, which has been recognised nationally, can be seen in the fact that in the year 2015/16 149 residential properties were brought back into use through advice, support, guidance, use of the vacant property feasibility grant and matchmaker service as well as collaborative work through the Empty Homes Initiative Grants and the Perth City Heritage Fund in partnership with Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust.
“We continue to work with the owners of commercial and residential empty properties to support them to bring these back into use.”