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17 November 2015, 06:00
Scotland's 27,000 empty homes could be worth more than £4.3 billion, the body working to bring them back into use has revealed.
The Scottish Empty Homes Partnership (SEHP) said these properties had an average sale price of £160,000 once they are no longer vacant.
It is now urging the owners of the 27,000 homes that are long-term empty to do more to ensure they can be used again.
The SEHP, which is run by the housing and homeless charity Shelter Scotland, has helped bring 1,200 homes, with a potential of almost #200 million, back into use.
But with 150,000 families and individuals on housing waiting lists, it said more needed to be done.
The SEHP revealed the value of the country's empty homes ahead of the Scottish Empty Homes Conference in Edinburgh, which will hear from TV architect George Clarke, who is best known for his work on the Channel 4 programmes The Home Show, The Restoration Man and George Clarke's Amazing Spaces.
He argued that refurbishing empty homes was needed to help tackle the housing crisis and also made sense in "tough economic times''.
He said: "With thousands of empty homes across Scotland, it's a disgrace that so many families are going without something as fundamental as a home of their own.
"I totally support the building of new homes and we should be building tens of thousands of them, but we need to look at other options too.
"It's cheaper and quicker to refurbish empty homes than to build from scratch. It can be kinder to communities and the environment - and it makes sense in these tough economic times.''
Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said: "Bringing Scotland's empty homes back into use represents great value for money but it also provides homes to families and individuals who would otherwise struggle to afford a home of their own, or would be forced into expensive private rents.
"Not only have empty homes projects across Scotland helped over 1,000 families and individuals realise their dream of a home, empty homes work across Scotland has assisted the owners of these properties to make the most of their assets while regenerating local communities and neighbourhoods.
"While we acknowledge that empty homes alone cannot solve Scotland's housing crisis, they can be part of the solution to finding permanent and affordable homes to the 150,000 families and individuals across the country on waiting lists.''
Housing minister Margaret Burgess said: "Making sure everyone has access to an affordable home is at heart of the Scottish Government's priorities, and that's why we have increased our support for the work of the Empty Homes Partnership this year.
"We are working to bring empty and derelict buildings in town centres and across Scotland back into use by transforming these spaces into warm and comfortable homes - this is vital to improving access to affordable housing.
"It makes absolutely no sense for us to have homes lying empty when homelessness still exists in Scotland.''