A PARTNERSHIP has been launched to tackle the blight of empty homes across the Borders.

According to Scottish Government figures published in December 2021, there were 1,339 empty homes in the region.

Typical reasons for homes becoming empty for several years include the death of the owner, inherited properties where the new owners are unsure of what to do, property owners not being able to afford restorations to make the home habitable and owners being in care, leading to the deterioration of the property.

Galashiels and Hawick town centres had more than five per cent of properties classified as Long-Term Empty (LTE), according to data for 2016 to 2019.

Now action is proposed after South of Scotland Housing (SOSCH) and the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership (SEHP) launched a joint project to increase community housing in the south of Scotland, with particular focus on the Borders, through the conversion of residential, retail and industrial buildings.

The two-year project is centred on the hiring of a new empty homes co-ordinator who will identify and drive new community-led conversions of empty buildings. Candidates are currently being considered with an appointment expected by early October.

READ MORE: 'Silent' fireworks recommended for Borders town to avoid upsetting animals

SOSCH has been successful in carrying out conversions previously in Dumfries and Galloway, including the transformation of a hotel which had stood empty for 30 years into community-led homes and the restoration of the former Langholm Police Station into four homes.

Mike Staples, chief executive of SOSCH, said: “The revitalisation of empty buildings can have a significantly positive impact on communities in a number of different ways, and after a number of years focused on Dumfries and Galloway we are excited to be partnering with SEHP as we expand our operations into south-east Scotland.

“We are on a mission to transform more buildings that have been sitting empty even for decades into housing that communities can make use of and be proud of.

“We’ll be looking at everything from empty homes to former retail and industrial buildings, and would be glad to speak with any community members in the Borders who can see an opportunity for SOSCH to assist.”

Donna Bogdanovic, head of housing strategy and development with Scottish Borders Council, which hired its first empty homes officer in 2021, said she was looking forward to working with the new partnership, adding: “Tackling empty homes is a key priority for the council for the benefit of our local economy, strengthening our communities and reducing our environmental footprint.

“We are particularly keen to draw on SOSCH’s expertise in converting empty industrial and retail buildings in the Borders into community-led housing.”