Celebrating the work being done to tackle Islands’ empty homes

Murdo MacLeod outsite one of the properties which has been brought back to life and made a home once more.
Murdo MacLeod outsite one of the properties which has been brought back to life and made a home once more.

Two entries from the Western Isles have been named as finalists in a national competition to celebrate work being done to reduce the number of privately-owned empty homes in Scotland.

The Howdens Scottish Empty Homes Champions of the Year Awards are held annually to shine a spotlight on the people battling to bring the country’s 39,000 empty homes back to life to increase housing supply.

This year Murdo MacLeod, the empty homes officer at Comhairle Eilean Siar, is a finalist in the outstanding individual category and Pairc Trust is in the running for best collaborative project.

Mr MacLeod has far exceeded expectations by assisting owners to bring 61 properties back into use in the first year of the new service on the islands where he covers remote and rural island communities single-handed.

Pairc Trust saw an opportunity in a small disused and partially derelict elderly care unit at Gravir.

Working with a range of partners including housing association Tighean Innse Gall and funders they transformed the empty building into two much needed homes for affordable rent.

Shaheena Din, National Manager of the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership which organises the awards, said: “Scotland is beginning to turn a corner on empty homes with more than a thousand empty properties brought back into use in a single year in 2018-2019, the first time that milestone had been passed since the partnership was set up in 2010.

“These awards are a chance to celebrate all the hard work of people like empty homes officers, housing associations and community groups who realise that these properties are a massive asset in the face of our housing emergency. I want to wish all our finalists the best of luck.”

Talking about his nomiation Murdo Macleod, said: “I was really pleased to find out I had been nominated for the national empty homes awards.

“I’ve been the Empty Homes Officer for the Outer Hebrides for the past year and have enjoyed being able to help people bring their empty houses back in to use.

“I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of interest in the Comhairle’s Empty Homes project, and this has kept me very busy in a job I enjoy doing.

“I’ve had great support from my colleagues in the Comhairle and the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership and I look forward to continuing to try and get as many old houses back into use.”

Phil Hanson, Depot Manager for Howdens Joinery, which is sponsoring the awards for a fourth year, added: “Howdens is delighted to be sponsoring the awards to help bring well-deserved attention to the determined people who are working tirelessly across the country to make these empty buildings homes once again.

“I’d like to congratulate this year’s finalists. With entries from Ayrshire to Orkney we have seen a huge variety of exciting projects which are solving problems for owners and communities but most importantly providing homes for people to live in.”

The Howdens Scottish Empty Homes Champions of the Year Awards will be held in Edinburgh on November 20.